Income Tax Filing Requirements

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Do I have to file a tax return? Knowing the filing limits is the best place to start if you are not sure about filing a tax return. Compiled here are the basic guidelines to aid in the decision making process. Make sure to take note of age and filing status, because different amounts apply

IRS Filing Requirements

If you’re a U.S. citizen or resident alien and you meet filing requirements, you are required to file an income tax return.

According to the IRS, you must check these income requirements to determine if you required to file:

  • Filing Status: The five filing statuses are single, married (filing separately), married (filing jointly), head of household, and qualifying widow(er) with dependent child. Your filing status has bearing on deductions and credits you are eligible to claim.
  • Gross Income: If you’re under 65 years young; All your income including wages, tips, capital gains, tips, gambling winnings, and more should be claimed on your taxes if in 2018 the total is at least:
    • Single: $12,000
    • Married (MFS-filing separately-any age): $5 (Yes, really. This is not a typo)
    • Married (MFJ-filing jointly): $24,000
    • Head of Household (HOH): $ 18,000
    • Qualifying widow (QW) (er): $24,000
  • Age: If you’re 65 or older, you can have a higher gross income before you’re required to file taxes.
    • Single: $13,600
    • Married (filing jointly) one spouse 65 & older: $25,300
    • Married (filing jointly) both spouses 65 & older: $26,600
    • Head of Household: $19,600
    • Qualifying widow (er): $25,300

What exactly is your adjusted gross income?

Your adjusted gross income is basically your entire gross income minus any allowable tax deductions called above the line deductions. Some of them include:

  • Health Savings Account
  • Moving Expenses
  • Self-employed Health Insurance
  • Alimony Paid
  • Student Loan Interest
  • Tuition and Fees
  • Saver’s Credit

Your adjusted gross income is not the same as your taxable income.

What’s the difference between your adjusted gross income and taxable income?

After your adjusted gross income has been calculated, you are then allowed to either take a standard deduction or itemized deductions. The standard deduction ($12,000- Single and MFS* or, $24,000- Married filing jointly and QW or, $18,000-Head of Household); Also, if you, your spouse or both are 65 and over or are Blind the Standard deduction is higher. Whichever deduction you are eligible for and gives you the lowest tax liability is subtracted from adjusted gross income and the result is your taxable income.

Final Thoughts

Even if your income is below the filing requirements you should still file a tax return if federal taxes were withheld. The taxes withheld could garner you a tax refund especially if you are eligible for a refundable credit like the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Every year the IRS reports close to $1 billion in unclaimed refunds and the average unclaimed refund is about $700.  Also, if you purchased health insurance from the Health Insurance Marketplace, you need to file a return to report your health insurance credit and status.

Remember with TurboTax there’s no need to know tax laws or calculations. TurboTax asks simple questions and gives you the tax deductions and credits you’re eligible for based on your answers.

*Married Filing Separately persons must itemize their deductions if the other spouse itemizes on their return.

Elle Martinez
Elle Martinez

Written by Elle Martinez

Elle helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second. More from Elle Martinez

One response to “Income Tax Filing Requirements”

  1. As married couples, carrying the same last name, can you file tax separately ? example Mr John Gray and Theresa Peters now Theresa becomes Mrs Theresa Gray can these two file separately or on joint account?

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