Minimum Income To File Taxes – Updated For 2021

Believe it or not, if you have gross income below a certain threshold – you will technically not have to file taxes with Uncle Sam. Of course, this comes with a big asterisk, as it’s almost impossible to have enough money to live on, and still fall below this level of income.

The average taxpayer should always file their federal income tax return, even if they have low amounts of taxable income – and especially if they’re expecting a tax refund. You may even qualify for special assistance (like the earned income tax credit, or EITC for short) – without even realizing it.

If you have children, you could also qualify for the child tax credit. Just because you’re making a smaller income, doesn’t mean that the IRS hasn’t accounted for tax situations like yours.

While the odds are you will still have to file your federal taxes with Uncle Sam (and don’t forget about state taxes too!) – let’s take a look at the minimum income to file taxes.

How Does The IRS Define The Minimum Income To File Taxes?

Put simply – if you are under 65 and single – the minimum amount of annual gross income you need before filing taxes is $12,200. If you make less than this, technically you do not need to file a tax return.

If you are single and older than 65, the number changes slightly to $13,850. If married, the amount doubles, to $24,400 (or $27,000 if both of you are 65 or older).

As you can probably guess – it’s very difficult (if not impossible) to live on this little income. This is why we recommend everyone file a tax return – 99% of people fall above the threshold.

Tax season is a crazy time, and with the IRS, it’s also always better to file a tax return and not need it – than the other way around. If you don’t file, you may incur a tax liability – which comes with additional fees and penalties.

What If I’m A Nonresident?

Nonresidents do not have a minimum filing requirement – they simply always need to file a federal income tax return. Each tax year a nonresident is living in the United States, they should be filing their taxes.

Again, we reiterate – there is no minimum income threshold to meet, if you’re a nonresident. This little wrinkle is one of the (many) reasons we always recommend filing a federal income tax return – it’s always better to be safe than sorry, when it comes to dealing with the IRS.

Do I Need To Do Anything Different When Filing My Taxes (Or On My Tax Return)?

No, if you are making a lower income, you do not need to do anything differently when filing your federal income taxes. If you fall below the $12,200 minimum income requirement, technically you do not need to file at all.

Again, we still do not advise doing this, as it’s better to have it on the record that you attempted to pay your taxes, for that particular tax year. Lower end earners may also qualify for a tax credit (or two) that higher income earners do not qualify for, as well.

What About Tax Credit Options?

As a lower income earner, the good news is that qualifying for some tax credits can typically be slightly easier. While you may not be able to claim a standard deduction like higher earners can, there may be some refundable tax credits that you qualify for.

Remember, if you are married filing jointly – the minimum income to file taxes is higher. You can file separate returns, but this (weirdly) lowers the minimum income threshold to just $5 annually.

Uncommon Income Tax Filing Situations

There are even more situations where you will still have to file income taxes with the IRS, even if you don’t meet the minimum income. For example, if you owe any special taxes.

These could come from an IRA (a common account used for a retirement plan), in which case IRS Form 5329 would be utilized. There are also things like the Alternative Minimum Tax, as well as the Medicare tax, and even Social Security.

These could be utilized for tips you received but did not report to your employer – or if an employer did not withold these taxes from any paychecks they gave you. Another unique situation is self-employment – where you must report any earnings of at least $400 – and any money over $108.28 earned from a tax exempt organization (like a church).

Other Factors To Consider (For The Minimum Income To File Taxes)

Generally, you will always want to file a federal income tax return. It’s also important not to forget state tax.

Even if you made very little money, it’s usually a good idea to file a tax return anyway. The worst case is that it will be rejected by the IRS, but then there is a record that you filed all relevant tax forms, should any issues later arise.

We always recommend utilizing a qualified tax professional, as a CPA (or other tax expert) will be a much better preparer of the relevant tax forms – as well as being much more experienced in finding any applicable tax breaks.

It’s also important not to forget to file self-employment income, as part of your income tax filing. Filers can be penalized if they leave off any income during the tax preparation process.

Even if you don’t expect money back, it’s generally a good idea to always file your taxes. And of course, our standard disclaimer – we are not the IRS, so if you fulfill the requirements for an exemption, we can’t tell you – that’s up to the Internal Revenue Service.

The Bottom Line On The Minimum Income To File Taxes

There you have it – the truth on the minimum income to file taxes. When filing your federal income tax return, you may actually qualify for special credits (like the EITC) – but the best way to find out is to let a qualified tax professional prepare your taxes.


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