The minimum income to file taxes depends on two things — the standard deduction and any special rules that apply to your tax situation.
As a general rule, you don’t need to file a tax return if you made less than the standard deduction. However, there are some special situations that I’ll cover below.
If you make more than the standard deduction but do have to file a tax return, you generally won’t pay income tax on income covered by the standard deduction.
For example, if your income is $15,000 and the standard deduction is $14,000, you only pay income tax on $1,000.
The current standard deduction amounts are as follows.
|Single and Married Filing Separately
|Married Filing Jointly and Qualifying Widower*
|Head of Household
|Single Age 65+
|Married Filing Separately One Spouse 65+
|Married Filing Separately Both Spouses 65+
|Married Filing Jointly and Qualifying Widower Age 65+
|Married Filing Jointly Both Spouses 65+
|Head of Household Age 65+
|Dependent with Unearned Income Only
|Dependent with Earned and Unearned Income Totalling Less Than the Usual Standard Deduction Amount
|Earned income plus $400
|Earned income plus $400
If your itemized deductions are bigger than the standard deduction, you’ll still need to file a tax return even if your itemized deductions are big enough that you won’t owe any tax. You have to show your itemized deductions on your tax return.
Similarly, if you have IRA deductions, HSA deductions, or other deductions that mean you won’t owe tax, you still have to file a tax return if your income is higher than the standard deduction.
Other Times You May Need to File a Tax Return
There are other situations where you’re required to file a tax return even if your income is below the standard deduction.
You may owe other types of tax even if you don’t owe income tax. You may also not owe tax but the government needs to check your income to see if you qualify for other benefits.
Filing a tax return does not mean you will owe taxes. If you owed taxes, you would have already been required to file a tax return.
The only time you’re not required to file a tax return is when you don’t owe taxes and the government doesn’t need your income for other reasons. In other words, there are no taxes you can avoid by not filing a tax return.
Ask a tax pro if you’re not sure whether you need to file.
You Want a Refund
It’s common for jobs to take out too much in taxes especially if you made less than the standard deduction.
If you received a paystub or W-2 with taxes withheld, you should file a tax return to see if the IRS owes you a refund. If your job withheld taxes when you didn’t owe taxes, the IRS won’t automatically refund you if you don’t file a tax return.
Even if you didn’t have any taxes withheld, you may be entitled to a refundable tax credit such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. Depending on your family situation and income, this can be worth several thousand dollars.
Other common tax credits include the Child Tax Credit and American Opportunity Tax Credit (for education).
The only way to claim refundable tax credits is to file a tax return. Tax credits are free money and won’t make you owe taxes or get taxed.
You’re required to file a tax return if you have self-employment income of at least $400 even if your total income is less than the standard deduction. While you won’t owe income tax, self-employment tax applies to your first dollar in profits.
The standard deduction does not apply to self-employment tax.
Premium Tax Credit
If you received the advanced premium tax credit or health insurance subsidies, you must file a tax return.
Your health insurance subsidy is only an estimate during the year. The final amount is based on your taxable income at the end of the year.
If your income was higher than you estimated, you may need to pay some of your subsidy back when you file your tax return. If your income was lower than you estimated or you didn’t use your full subsidy, you may get a refund when you file your tax return.
Some states are still doing inflation relief stimulus payments such as the California Middle Class Tax Refund.
Most stimulus payments require you to file a tax return even if you don’t normally have to file.
If you missed a stimulus payment from a previous year, you may be able to go back and file a tax return for that year to claim it. Check the deadlines for the specific stimulus payment you’re trying to claim.
If you hired a nanny or other household employee, you may need to pay employment taxes as a household employer. You’ll usually need to file a tax return if you paid a household employee at least $1,000 during the year even if you don’t otherwise have to file.