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How Much Do You Have to Make to File Taxes?

By Timothy Moore · February 20, 2024 · 8 minute read

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How Much Do You Have to Make to File Taxes?

If you are wondering if you made enough money to file taxes this year, the answer will depend on more than just your income. There are other qualifying factors, such as age and marital status. What’s more, even if you are not required to file taxes, it’s often wise move to do so anyway.

Here, you’ll learn what you need to know about tax-filing requirements based on your income and other aspects of your filing status. In addition, you’ll find some smart tips for filing your tax return this season. Read on for answers to such questions as:

•   How much do you need to earn to file taxes?

•   At what point do you have to start paying taxes?

•   What are some tips for making the tax-filing process easier?

What Factors Determine If You Have to File Taxes

“How much do I have to make to file taxes?” is a valid question, but the answer is, “It depends.” While gross income (not adjusted gross income) is important, it’s not the only factor to consider. Determining whether you need to file taxes depends on your:

•   Gross income (earned and unearned)

•   Filing status

•   Age

•   Dependent status

Note: Regarding age for the 2023 tax year, you’re considered to be 65 or older by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if you were born before Jan. 2, 1959.

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How Much Do You Need to Make to File Taxes?

Gross income is the number-one consideration when determining if you should file taxes. But this minimum income requirement also varies by filing status and age.

Below is a breakdown of gross income thresholds listed by filing status. You’ll also learn about instances of when dependents may need to file their own tax return.

Single

For the 2024 tax season, filing requirements for single taxpayers vary based on age:

•   Single filers under 65 must file a return if their gross income was $13,850 or more.

•   Single filers 65 or older must file a return if their gross income was $15,700 or more.

Head of Household

Similarly, those with a head of household filing status have varying thresholds based on age:

•   $20,800 for heads of household under 65.

•   $22,650 for heads of household 65 or older.

Married Filing Jointly

Married couples who file a joint return have slightly more complicated requirements since the two spouses could be in different age categories:

•   If both spouses are under 65, they must file if their gross income is $27,700 or more.

•   If one spouse is under 65 and the other is 65 or older, they must file if their gross income is $29,200 or more.

•   If both spouses are 65 or older, they must file if their gross income is $30,700 or more.

Married Filing Separately

Regardless of the age of either spouse, taxpayers who are married but filing separately must file if their gross income is just $5 or more, according to IRS guidelines.

Qualifying Surviving Spouse

If you’re a qualifying surviving spouse, the minimum gross income requirements for filing depend on your age:

•   $27,700 for filers under 65

•   $29,200 for filers 65 or older

If you earn that amount or more, you need to get your tax return in on time. (Remember, if you miss the tax-filing deadline, you may incur penalties.)

Dependent Filers

If you are a dependent claimed on someone else’s taxes, you may still have to file your own return. The minutiae of determining file requirements can be complicated and depends on:

•   Your age

•   Your marital status

•   Your vision (those who are blind have different qualifying guidelines)

The IRS Publication 501 contains a helpful table in determining file requirements, but if you’re unsure, it may be helpful to work with an accountant.

The following chart summarizes answers to “Do I have to file taxes?” in visual form. It breaks down minimum gross income amounts based on age and filing status for most taxpayers. Dependents are a notable exception. Read on for an overview of income thresholds for tax filing.

Filing Status

Age

Required to File If Gross Income Was at Least…

Single Younger than 65 $13,850
65 or older $15,700
Head of household Younger than 65 $20,800
65 or older $22,650
Married filing jointly Both younger than 65 $27,700
One spouse 65 or older $29,200
Both 65 or older $30,700
Married filing separately Younger than 65 $5
65 or older
Qualifying surviving spouse Younger than 65 $27,700
65 or older $29,200

If you’re still not sure if you should file, you can use the IRS’s free online tool for determining filing requirements. You’ll need some basic info to accurately complete the assessment, but this tool can come in handy.

Recommended: What Are the Different Types of Taxes?

Should I File Taxes Even If I Don’t Have to?

Above is an outline of when you’re legally required to file taxes. But just because you don’t have to file doesn’t mean you can’t.

Even if you know how much you need to make to file taxes and are below that number, the IRS encourages everyone to file if they can get money back. This may apply if:

•   You had taxes withheld from a paycheck but didn’t make enough money to have had that money withheld.

•   You made estimated quarterly payments but didn’t make enough money to have to file.

•   You qualify for refundable tax credits that could result in your receiving funds back from the government, like the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Recommended: What Tax Bracket Am I In?

Tax-Filing Tips to Help You This Season

Filing your taxes for the first time or just in need of a refresher? Here are a few tax tips to help you file correctly this season:

•   Be prepared: Preparing for tax season before it’s time to file can make the process much easier. It may be helpful to make a list of all the forms you’re expecting, like W-2 forms and 1099 forms, and keep them located in a safe place until it’s time to file.

•   Check out IRS Free File: No need to pay for professional tax software or an accountant if you qualify for guided tax preparation through the IRS and its partners. As long as your adjusted gross income is $79,000 or less, you’ll qualify.

•   Don’t forget about state and local taxes: We often think of the IRS and our federal tax returns, but depending on where you live, you may also need to pay state and local taxes.

•   File early if possible — and use direct deposit: The sooner you file, the sooner you’ll get your tax refund. If you file electronically and choose direct deposit, the IRS says you can typically expect your refund within three weeks. The IRS also says this is safer than a paper check!

•   Understanding extensions: Sometimes, life happens, and it’s just about impossible to meet a deadline. If that’s your situation, you can file for a tax extension and have an extra six months to file your return. Just note that any taxes you owe are still due on Tax Day; it’s only the return itself that can be sent in later.

•   Don’t be afraid to ask for help: Taxes can be overwhelming. While it may not be ideal to pay for an accountant, it could mean earning a larger refund if this tax professional can identify additional tax deductions and credits for which you qualify.

Recommended: How to Make a Budget in 5 Steps

The Takeaway

Tax time can be confusing. It’s not just a matter of knowing how to file but also if you need to file at all. Depending on your income and other factors, you may not be legally required to file your taxes come April. Even if you don’t meet minimum income requirements for filing, however, it might be a good idea to file anyway if you think you may be owed money from previous withholdings or through a refundable tax credit.

And if you do get a juicy refund? Consider depositing it into a high-interest bank account where it can grow.

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FAQ

What happens if I don’t file my taxes?

If you don’t file your taxes but were legally required to, the IRS can charge you a Failure to File Penalty, assessed at 5% of your unpaid tax liability every month that the liability goes unpaid (up to 25%).

If you were owed a refund, you won’t be charged a penalty — but you could miss out on that money owed to you. (You have three years to file to get the refund you’re owed.)

The IRS can take additional steps if you fail to file, including criminal prosecution.

Do I have to file taxes on gifts?

As the recipient of a gift, you generally don’t have to worry about paying taxes on the gift. Instead, the person who gave you the gift would pay the taxes.

However, the IRS has several exclusions, including gifts to your spouse, gifts to a political organization, and tuition and medical expenses that you pay for someone else. Note: The IRS has an annual exclusion on gifts. For the 2023 tax year, you don’t have to pay taxes on the first $17,000 in gifts to each person you give a gift to. For most taxpayers, that means they won’t pay taxes on things like birthday and Christmas presents.

Can I file taxes even if I am under the necessary income?

Yes, you can still file taxes if you’re under the necessary income. In fact, the IRS encourages many people to file even if they don’t have to because they might still be eligible for money from the government, perhaps via refundable tax credits.


Photo credit: iStock/Fortgens Photography

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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