Not everyone is required to file taxes, but most Americans are and likely will be.
Of the 176.2 million individuals and married couples eligible to file a tax return in 2020, about 144.5 million did, according to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. Whether you have to file a tax return depends mainly on your income, filing status and age. However, in special situations you may need to file a tax return regardless of your income. For example, if you have at least $400 in net earnings from self-employment, you must file a tax return.
However, even if you don’t have to file a tax return, you may want to claim tax credits and overpayments that could result in the money being returned to you.
It might sound confusing, but we’ll explain it all here so you can stay within the law or even get some benefits for doing a little junk work.
Important things:Are you ready to file your tax return? Here’s everything you need to know to file your taxes in 2023.
Who is required by law to file a tax return?
To find out if you’re among the millions of people who must file, start with your gross income, which is your total income before taxes and adjustments, age and filing status. Filing status is if you are single or married filing jointly or separately, as head of household or widow(er).
Depending on your age and filing status, the IRS has minimum income thresholds that determine whether you must file a tax return. Here are the breakdowns:
Status of one submission:
- $12,950 if you’re under 65
- $14,700 if you’re 65 or older
Joint submission of spouses:
- $25,900 if both spouses are under 65
- $27,300 if one spouse is under 65 and one is 65 or older
- $28,700 if both spouses are 65 or older
Married filing separately:
Head of family:
- $19,400 if you’re under 65
- $21,150 if you’re 65 or older
Eligible widow (widow) with a dependent child:
- $25,900 if you’re under 65
- $27,300 if you’re 65 or older
If you serve:Is it better to pay someone to do your taxes or do them yourself? We will help you decide.
Focus on:The 2023 tax season has officially begun: Here are the key dates to keep in mind
People in a “special situation” may have to file a tax return regardless of income. Some of these situations include:
1. You owe any special taxes, such as:
- Alternative minimum tax, which is generally for taxpayers with very high incomes.
- Additional tax on a qualified plan, including an Individual Retirement Plan (IRA) or other tax-advantaged account.
- Social Security or Medicare tax on tips you didn’t report to your employer or on wages you received from an employer that didn’t withhold those taxes.
- Uncollected Social Security, Medicare, or railroad pension tax on tips you reported to your employer, or on group life insurance and additional taxes on health savings accounts.
- Household employment taxes.
- Recapture taxes, which repay the federal government for the benefits of using tax-exempt mortgage bonds, were used for financing.
2. You (or your spouse, if filing jointly) purchased health insurance in the state or federal marketplace or received a health savings account distribution.
3. You had net self-employment earnings of at least $400.
4. You had wages of $108.28 or more from a church or a qualified church-controlled organization that is exempt from employer Social Security and Medicare taxes.
Note: if you can claim as a dependent on someone else’s tax return, your tax filing requirements are different.
If you’re still on the fence, use the IRS’s interactive tool to help you determine if you need to file a tax return.
Should I file a tax return even if I’m not required to?
If you think you can get your money back, yes. Consider submitting if any of the following apply:
- Income tax was withheld from your paycheck. You can get this amount back.
- You overpaid. For example, if you have made estimated tax payments or if you have applied any overpayment from last year to this year’s estimated tax, you may be able to get a refund.
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). You may be eligible for this refundable credit, which means that even if you don’t owe taxes, you can still get a refund. Depending on your income and the number of children you have, lower-income workers may qualify for the EITC between $510 and $6,318, but you don’t have to have children to qualify for the EITC.
- Additional tax bonus for a child. If you qualify, you can get up to $1,500 of the $2,000 Child Tax Credit per child as a replacement.
- American credit for opportunity. If you qualify for this tax credit to help pay for your post-secondary education expenses, you can get a maximum annual credit of $2,500 per eligible student, and you can get a 40% or $1,000 refund if you owe no tax.
- Premium tax relief. If you qualify, you can get reimbursed for this credit, which helps eligible individuals and families cover the premiums for their health insurance purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
Even without a refund due, the IRS recommends filing a tax return if you received a 1099-B that includes information about securities or property involved in a broker-dealer transaction to avoid notice from the IRS.
Medora Lee is a money, markets and personal finance reporter for USA TODAY. You can reach her at [email protected] and sign up for our free Daily Money newsletter for personal finance tips and business news every Monday through Friday morning.