The IRS requires most of us to file a federal income tax return every year. In general, the federal tax agency bases its filing requirements for a given tax year on how much income you earn for a given tax filing status.
The five tax filing statuses are single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, and widow or widower with qualifying child.
For persons age 65 or older or blind, the filing requirements are a little more lenient since you can earn additional income and not have to file.
The IRS uses the following income thresholds to determine whether you must file a federal income tax return for 2008. The IRS adjusts these amounts for inflation so that taxpayers aren’t automatically bumped into a higher tax bracket as incomes grow to keep pace with inflation:
Single taxpayers. If you expect to file a single return, the IRS requires you to file a return for 2008 if your gross income for the year is at least:
$8,950 if you are under age 65. $10,300 if you are at least age 65.
Married filing jointly. For married persons filing jointly, you are required to file a return if gross income for 2008 is at least:
$17,900 if both of you are under age 65. $18,950 if one of you was at least age 65. $20,000 if both of you were at least age 65.
If you are not living with your spouse at the end of the year or on the date that a spouse should die, the IRS requires you to file a return if your gross income is at least $3,500. Each personal exemption in 2008 is worth $3,500.
Married filing separately. For married persons filing a separate return, no matter what age, you must file a return if gross income is at least $3,500.
Head of household. For persons filing as head of household, you must file a return for 2008 if gross income is at least:
$11,500 if under age 65. $12,850 if at least age 65.
Qualifying widow or widower. For persons filing as qualifying widow or widower with dependent child, you must file a return for 2008 if gross income is at least:
$14,400 if under age 65. $15,450 if at least age 65.
Even if you don’t earn this much income, other situations exist to determine whether you must file a tax return. For example, a dependent has to file a return for 2008 if they received more than $900 in unearned income or more than $5,450 in earned income. Other situations include:
You owe certain taxes. If you owe FICA or Medicare taxes (also called payroll taxes) on unreported tip or other reported income that were not collected, you must file a return. You must also file a tax return if you are liable for any alternative minimum tax. You must also file a return if you owe taxes on individual retirement accounts, Archer MSA accounts or an employer-sponsored retirement plan.
Advance EIC payments. If your receive advance payments for the earned income credit from your employer, you must file a return.
Self-employment earnings. If your net earnings from self-employment are $400 or more, you must file a return.
Church income. If you earn employee income of at least $108.28 from either a church or qualified church-controlled organization that is exempt from employer-paid FICA and Medicare taxes, you must file a return.
For more information on the IRS’s filing requirements, see IRS Pub. 17.