How Do You Determine Whether You Have to File Taxes?


Quick Answer

As of 2014, taxpayers must file federal tax returns if their gross income exceeds a certain level based on their filing status or if special circumstances apply. Special circumstances require filing regardless of income and include self-employment, owing recapture taxes, and having income from tips or distributions from certain tax-advantaged accounts.

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Full Answer

  1. Determine your filing status and income requirement for filing

    Your filing status is either single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household or qualifying widow(er) with a dependent child. Each of these statuses has an income level below which you are not required to file a federal tax return, such as single taxpayers under the age of 65 with incomes of less than $10,000. Taxpayers over the age of 65 have a different income level for each filing status. Look up the income requirement for your filing status on the IRS website or in an IRS tax manual.

  2. Determine if you have any special circumstances

    Regardless of income, you must file a tax return if you have more than $400 of earnings from self-employment, if you owe the alternative minimum tax, or if you owe recapture taxes, such as the First-Time Homebuyer Credit. You must also file a return if you have tips not reported to the IRS by your employer or if you have taken a distribution from a health savings account or a Medicare Advantage or Archer medical savings account.

  3. Determine if you are owed a refund

    Even if you are not required to file a return, it is to your benefit to do so if the IRS owes you money.

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