Every year around this time, millions of Americans wonder if it’s even necessary for them to file a tax return. It probably doesn’t come as a shock to you, since anyone who has ever looked at a Form 1040 has probably wondered where the emergency exit doors are!
The easiest way to find out if you need to file a return is by using an IRS tool conveniently called “Do I need to file a tax return?” It’s a 12 minute survey that mirrors what you’d be asked if you called the IRS directly to ask. Be prepared to know your citizenship status, filing status, income earned outside the United States, federal income tax withheld, and anything else you need to know to calculate your gross income.
There are some cases where you might want to file a tax return even if you aren’t required to file a return. If you qualified for the Making Work Pay Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, Additional Child Tax Credit, American Opportunity Credit, First-Time Homebuyer Credit, or the Health Coverage Tax Credit then you’ll want to file a return in order to get the value of your credit back as a tax refund. Also, if you had federal income tax withheld on your paycheck, you may be due a refund and you’ll need to file a return to know for sure.
My recommendation is that everyone should take the time to prepare a tax return, which is simple when you use tax preparation software, and let the refund decide for you. If you aren’t required to file a return, simply fill out the forms (it shouldn’t take too long), and see if you’re due for a refund. If the answer is yes, file! If not, then skip it this year.