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Video: Who Needs to File an Income Tax Return?

Updated for Tax Year 2017 • December 1, 2022 09:16 AM


OVERVIEW

Even if you earned income this year, you may not be obligated to file a tax return. Watch this video to help determine your filing status and learn about tax-exempt income.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Beginning in 2018, exemptions are no longer used to reduce taxable income and therefore are not used to determine whether you have a tax filing requirement.


 

Video transcript:

Hello, I’m Jill from TurboTax, with important information that will help you determine if you need to file an income tax return.

Believe it or not, the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t automatically require you to file a tax return each year just because you earn income. Instead, most taxpayers who aren’t the dependent of another taxpayer can determine their income tax filing obligations using their gross income and filing status.

First, determine your filing status and identify the standard deduction for that status. Then add the personal exemptions you are eligible for and compare the sum to your gross income—which is all income you earn during the year that isn’t tax-exempt. If your gross income is equal to or greater than the sum, you will need to file a tax return.

Figuring out which filing status to use isn’t difficult, but you will need to familiarize yourself with a number of IRS rules to do it.

If you are legally married by the last day of the tax year and your spouse consents to filing a joint return, you can choose the married filing jointly status. Otherwise, you generally must use the standard deduction for the married filing separately status.

And if you are a recent widow or widower, it’s possible you may qualify to file as a qualifying widow or widower.

Unmarried taxpayers, on the other hand, can always file as single, but you may want to consider whether you’re eligible to file as head of household since it allows you to take a larger standard deduction.

There are, however, a number of exceptions to these filing thresholds, such as with self-employed taxpayers. If you are self-employed, your obligation to file a tax return doesn’t relate to the standard deduction and personal exemption at all. Instead, you must file a return whenever your net earnings from self-employment exceed the threshold amounts set out by the IRS each year.

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