Do I Need to File a Federal Income Tax Return? Maybe Not If You Meet These IRS Guidelines even Though it Could be a Good Idea

[Updated Income Thresholds] The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recommends that all adults file a tax return. Obviously, the IRS wants to have everyone pay their taxes but it is also an important way for the government to ensure that it pays out subsidies, stimulus payments and tax credits to the groups that they were intended for.

However filing a tax return does take time and can cost you money. Further if you are not expecting to earn an income domestically (e.g living/working overseas) or receive a refund then you may meet the tax filing exclusion criteria. But before you think of not filing a federal tax return for a given tax year, make sure you can answer NO to the following IRS guidelines by answer

  • Did you have Federal taxes withheld from your pension and wages for this tax year and wish to get a refund back? If so then you need to file a tax return.
  • For the latest tax year the IRS has provided income guidelines to determine if you should file. These are shown in the table below. If you earned taxable gross income above these levels then you need to file a tax return
    Single FilersMarried Filing Jointly or Qualified WidowerHead of HouseholdMarried Filing Separately
    ($14,700 if 65 or older)
    $25,900 (both spouses under 65)
    $27,300 (if one spouse > 65yrs)
    $28,700 (both spouses > 65yrs)
    ($21,150 if 65 or older)
    $5 (any age)
  • Are you entitled to the Earned Income Tax Credit or did you receive Advance Earned Income Credit for this tax year? To get this credit, you need to file a federal return.
  • Were you self-employed with earnings of more than $400.00?
  • Did you sell your home? Alternatively if you bought a home, you may be eligible for the extended home buyer credit.
  • Will you owe any special tax on a qualified retirement plan (like an IRA) or medical savings account (MSA or HSA)? You may owe tax if you:
    • Received an early distribution from a qualified plan
    • Made excess contributions to your IRA or Health/Medical savings plan
    • Were born before July 1, 1939, and you did not take the minimum required distribution from your qualified retirement plan.
    • Received a distribution in the excess of $160,000 from a qualified retirement plan.
  • Will you owe social security and Medicare tax on tips you did not report to your employer?
  • Will you owe uncollected social security and Medicare or Railroad retirement (RRTA) tax on tips you reported to your employer?
  • Will you be subject to Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)? (The tax law gives special treatment to some kinds of income and allows special deductions and credit for some kinds of expenses.)
  • Are you a church employee with income in wages of $108.28 or more from a church or qualified church-controlled organization that is exempt from employer social security or Medicare taxes?

The questions and tables above will help you determine if you need to file a Federal Income Tax return or if you need to stop your withholding so you will not have to file an unnecessary return in the future. If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, then you should file a tax return.

Consider using the following top rated tax software to help you with filing.

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5 thoughts on “Do I Need to File a Federal Income Tax Return? Maybe Not If You Meet These IRS Guidelines even Though it Could be a Good Idea”

  1. I was released from federal prison custody October 4 of 2016 so will I get fined for not having health insurance when I file my 2016 taxes?

  2. I dont have to file, bc no income this year. Although through Jackson Hewitt due to the fact i ended up hospitalized while uninsured with medical bills that exceed like $15k i got a tax exemption code which will protect me from being charged the fee for not having med insurance. I want to give that code to my step mother bc she will be fined is that legal?

  3. I have file 2016 tax return I am senior , I have paid to my bookkeeper $165. My refund is$100.?do I have to fil 2017?

  4. That’s a lot of ‘no’s’ to come with. lol My biggest issue this year is going to be getting my online income and expense records together. I have up yo about March of last years and the rest of 2010 is waiting for my time. I hate this time of year.


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