Who has to do taxes?

There are three factors you should consider when determining whether you need to file a tax return: your age, your filing status, and your income. Once you reach a certain income level, the law generally requires you to file taxes.

If your gross income for 2018 is above the thresholds for your age and filing status, you must file a federal tax return. See the table below.

Tax-filing earnings thresholds for 2019 taxes

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As the table above indicates, individuals younger than age 65 must file if they make certain amounts. The earnings threshold amounts go up a bit for individuals 65 and up.

Regardless of age, the earnings target is the same for married couples who file separate tax returns.

In most situations, your age for tax purposes depends on how old you were on the last day of the year. But when it comes to determining whether you have to file a return, the IRS says that if you turned 65 on New Year’s Day, you are considered to be 65 at the end of the previous tax year. The one-day grace period allows you to use the higher income thresholds to determine whether you must file a tax return.


You may also have to file for other reasons. The most frequent reason for filing a federal income tax return even when you don't meet the criteria above is for self-employed persons: those who are self-employed must file a federal income tax return if net earnings are at least $400. Other reasons to file include when you own special taxes like the alternative minimum tax (AMT), household employment taxes, taxes on retirement accounts or Social Security and Medicare tax on tips you did not report to your employer or on wages from an employer who did not withhold those taxes.

Even if you’ve determined that you don’t need to file a tax return this year, you may still want to file to take advantage of tax breaks and credits which might be available. You might be entitled, for example, to a refund for excess withholdings. You might also be able to claim a refundable credit such as the earned income tax credit (EITC). Refundable credits mean that you are entitled to a refund if the amount of the credit exceeds your own tax liability. Other examples of refundable credits include the additional child tax credit and, within limits, the American Opportunity Credit for students.

The deadline for filing for the 2018 tax year is Tuesday, April 17, 2019. If you’re still not sure whether you must file a tax return, ask a tax professional, call the IRS at (800) 829-1040  or make an appointment at your nearest IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center.

Marlon JacksonComment