Monday January 20, 2020
Do I Need to File a Tax Return This Year?
Whether you are required to file a federal income tax return this year depends on several factors: how much you earned last year (in 2018), the source of that income, your age and your filing status.
Here is a rundown of this tax season's IRS tax filing requirement thresholds. For most people, this is pretty straightforward. If your 2018 gross income – which includes all taxable income, not counting your Social Security benefits, unless you are married and filing separately – was below the threshold for your filing status and age, you may not have to file. If your gross income is over the threshold, however, you will be required to file. The 2018 thresholds are as follows:
- Single Filer: $12,000 ($13,600 if you are age 65 or older as of Jan. 1, 2019).
- Married filing jointly: $24,000 ($25,300 if you or your spouse is 65 or older; or $26,600 if you are both over 65).
- Married filing separately: $5 at any age.
- Head of household: $18,000 ($19,600 if age 65 or older).
- Qualifying widow or widower with dependent child: $24,000 ($25,300 if you are age 65 or older).
There are some other financial situations that can require you to file a tax return, even if your gross income falls below the IRS filing requirements. For example, if you earned more than $400 from self-employment in 2018, owe any special taxes, like an alternative minimum tax or get premium tax credits because you, your spouse or a dependent is enrolled in a Health Insurance Marketplace plan, you will need to file.
You will also need to file if you are receiving Social Security benefits and one-half of your benefits plus your other gross income and any tax-exempt interest exceeds $25,000 (or $32,000 if you are married and filing jointly).
To figure all this out, the IRS offers an interactive tax assistant tool on its website that asks a series of questions to will help you determine if you are required to file or if you should file because you are due a refund. It takes less than 15 minutes to complete.
You can access this tool by clicking on the "Do I Need to File?" link at IRS.gov/filing. You can get assistance over the phone by calling the IRS helpline at 800-829-1040. You can also get face-to-face help at a Taxpayer Assistance Center. See IRS.gov/localcontacts or call 800-829-1040 to locate a center near you.
Check Your State
Even if you are not required to file a federal tax return this year, do not assume that you are also excused from filing state income taxes. The rules for your state might be very different. Check with your state tax agency before concluding that you are entirely in the clear. For links to state tax agencies see Taxadmin.org/state-tax-agencies.
Tax Preparation Help
If you find that you do need to file a tax return this year, you can get help through the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program. Sponsored by the IRS, TEC provides free tax preparation and counseling to middle and low-income taxpayers, age 60 and older. Call 800-906-9887 or visit IRS.treasury.gov/freetaxprep to locate a service near you.
Also check with AARP, a participant in the TCE program, that provides free tax preparation at approximately 5,000 sites nationwide. To locate an AARP Tax-Aide site call 888-227-7669 or visit AARP.org/findtaxhelp. You do not have to be an AARP member to use this service.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.