• Get the latest on monthly child tax credit payments here.

  1. TurboTax /
  2. Tax Calculators & Tips /
  3. Tax Tips Guides & Videos /
  4. Family /
  5. At What Income Does a Minor Have to File an Income Tax Return?

At What Income Does a Minor Have to File an Income Tax Return?

Updated for Tax Year 2021 / October 16, 2021 04:55 AM


OVERVIEW

If your kids are young enough to be your dependents, they may have to pay taxes. In some cases, you may be able to include their income on your tax return; in others, they'll have to file their own tax return or you will have to file a separate return on their behalf. Whether this is required depends on both the amount and source of the minor's income.


Youngsters are especially ambitious these days, and even if your kids are young enough to be your dependents, they may have to pay taxes. In some cases, you may be able to include their income on your tax return; in others, they'll have to file their own tax return or you will have to file a separate return on their behalf. Whether this is required depends on both the amount and source of the minor’s income.

Earned income

Beginning in 2018, a minor who may be claimed as a dependent has to file a return once their income exceeds their standard deduction. For tax year 2021 this is the greater of $1,100 or the amount of earned income plus $350. For tax years prior to 2018, the threshold is is when the minor works and earns more than the standard personal exemption for the year, according to IRS Publication 929.

A 15-year-old who works after school, for instance, and earns less than $1,100 would owe nothing in taxes. Even so, if an employer withheld taxes from her paycheck, she'll have to file a tax return to obtain a refund.

Unearned income

The IRS also has a cutoff level for "unearned income," such as dividends or interest. If your child's income is above this year's level, he has to file; below that point, he isn't required to file a tax return.

If the child has both earned and unearned income, both amounts must be added together to determine if the total income triggers the mandatory filing requirement. The IRS provides a formula for figuring this out in Publication 929.

Additional requirements

Even if a minor's income is less than the minimum threshold, the IRS sets other conditions that may require a tax return to be filed. A minor must file, for example, if he owes Social Security or Medicare taxes on tip income.

In addition, if he earns income from self-employment, he may owe Self-Employment Tax, which means paying both the employee’s and employer's share of Social Security and Medicaid taxes. The trigger for Self Employment Tax has been $400 since 1990, but the IRS may change that in the future.

Filing on your child's behalf

If your child is required to file a tax return for unearned income, the IRS gives you the option of claiming the money on your return instead. There are certain restrictions, including a limit to the amount of money involved, and the tax you’ll owe may be greater than if your child filed an individual return. If you qualify, file Form 8814 with your 1040 and the IRS will not require your child to file.

Remember, with TurboTax, we'll ask you simple questions about your life and help you fill out all the right tax forms. Whether you have a simple or complex tax situation, we've got you covered. Feel confident doing your own taxes.

All you need to know is yourself

Just answer simple questions about your life, and TurboTax Free Edition will take care of the rest.

For Simple Tax Returns Only

$0 Fed. $0 State. $0 To File.*
File for $0

Looking for more information?

Get more with these free tax calculators and
money-finding tools