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Do I Need to File a Tax Return?

February 2, 2016

Even if you earned income in 2015, you might not need to prepare a tax return this filing season. Generally, if your total yearly income is below your standard deduction plus one personal exemption, you are not required to file a tax return. Additionally, you must not be a dependent on another taxpayer’s return.

In addition to your income, your filing status and age also determines whether you need to file. For 2015, if you are filing as single and are under 65 years of age and your gross income is less than $10,300, then you are not required to file a return. The amount of $10,300 is the sum of the 2015 standard deduction plus one exemption for single filers. Tax-exempt income should not be included when calculating gross income.

For 2015, the standard deduction is $6,300 for single persons and married persons filing separate returns. It is $12,600 for married couples filing jointly. The standard deduction for heads of household is $9,250.

If Claimed As a Dependent

If you are claimed as a dependent on someone’s return, you are subject to different filing requirements. A dependent must file a tax return if their earned income is more than the standard deduction. For 2015, the standard deduction for single taxpayers under age 65, who are not blind, is $6,300. A dependent cannot claim a personal exemption, and you can never claim your spouse as a dependent on your tax return.

If Claiming a Tax Credit for a Refund

Even if you are not required to file, you may consider filing a return if you are eligible for tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Claiming the EITC on your return even when you have zero tax liability can get you a refund of up to $6,242.

To claim EITC for 2015, your earned income and adjusted gross income must be less than:

If filing… Qualifying Children Claimed
Zero One Two Three or more
Single, Head of Household or Widowed $14,820 $39,131 $44,454 $47,747
Married Filing Jointly $20,330 $44,651 $49,974 $53,267

Source: IRS

Your investment income must be less than $3,400 a year. The maximum EITC amount for tax year 2015 is:

  • $6,242 with three or more qualifying children
  • $5,548 with two qualifying children
  • $3,359 with one qualifying child
  • $503 with no qualifying children

If you are self-employed, you are required to file if your net earnings are at least $400. Additionally, if you owe special taxes, such as the alternative minimum tax, you need to file a return. To find out if you are required to file a return for 2015, you may use the IRS toolDo I Need to File a Tax Return?’.

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