Skip to main content

How Much Money Do You Have To Make To File Taxes?

Published April 9, 2021

4 minute read

Devon Taylor

By Devon Taylor

Reviewed by Expert Riley Adams, CPA

Every single year without fail, tax time returns. If you’re already a seasoned tax veteran, then don’t worry. This article probably isn’t for you. However, if you are young and just started your first job or barely made any money last year, you might be wondering “how much money do you have to make to file taxes?” It’s a perfectly natural question, since taxes are generally complicated and a bit annoying. If you don’t really have to take the time to gather all your information and send it off to the IRS, why bother? Unfortunately, the answer is a bit complicated.

Ultimately, how much income you need to earn to file federal taxes with the IRS depends on several lifestyle questions. Other important factors like marital status, age, income levels, or retirement can come into play. In this article, we breakdown the minimum amount of money you have to earn before you are legally required to file a tax return.

Tax Status

In order to know how much money you need to earn before you are required to file your taxes, so some simple self evaluation. For starters, single people under the age of 65 can earn up $12,400 annually before they have to file taxes. If you earned less than that, the IRS doesn’t require you submit a return. Those who are 65 or older (and plan to file a single tax return) can earn a minimum of $14,050 before they have to pay any income taxes.

Married couples under 65 who file their tax return jointly need to earn at least $24,800 before they technically have to file taxes. If both spouses are 65 or older, they can make a minimum combined amount of $27,400. If only one spouse is 65 or older, then the difference is split. That means they can earn a combined income of $26,100 before having to file taxes. Oddly, those who are married but plan to file their income taxes separately are only required to earn a gross income of $5 before they must file a tax return.

Those who qualify as the “Head of Household” in their family have to file a tax return if they make $18,650 or more during a given year. If you are a Head of Household and over 65, however, you can earn $20,300 before having to file taxes.

You Might Want to File Anyway

Here’s a bit of financial advice, though. No matter how little you earned in a given tax year, you should always file your tax return. There are numerous reasons for this. The first is filing a return for yourself goes a long way in preventing identity theft. If you don’t file your own return, you might never know if some fraudster attempted to do one for you. The IRS isn’t likely to catch on either, unless they notice two returns with the same SIN. Filing an annual tax return will also help keep you safe from future IRS audits, as they will have a clear picture of your tax history.

It’s also possible that you will still get money back. Even though you didn’t earn enough to own taxes, they may still have been taken off your paycheck by your employer. You might also have eligible credits or deductions that could put some money pack in your pocket. It won’t be a lot, since your income was so low, but it’s still better than nothing.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, every person needs to self-assess their own situation. Add up the income you earned in the previous year. Compare it to the numbers above, and see if you meet the threshold to need to do your taxes. Generally speaking, people who earn more than $12,000 a year, need to file a federal tax return. However, if in doubt, you should consult with a tax professional. Even using official tax software can be useful in figuring everything out. Helpful information can also be found on the official IRS website. A qualified tax expert can help ensure that you meet the required tax filing deadlines and that you pay the accurate amount of taxes.

Keep in mind that there are stiff penalties for those who fail to file taxes when they actually needed to. You can bet that the IRS won’t accept your excuse of “but I didn’t think I had to do my taxes.”

The last thing you want is the sudden realization that you owe years worth of back taxes. Don’t put your future self in that stressful situation.

Income Tax Return

Shutterstock

Devon Taylor

Contributor

Devon is an experienced writer and a father of three young children. He's simultaneously trying to build college funds and plan for an eventual retirement. He's been in online publishing since 2013 and has a degree from the University of Guelph. In his free time, he loves fanatically following the Blue Jays and Toronto FC, camping with his family, and playing video games.

Explore Taxes

Taxes

What Are The New 2021 Tax Brackets?

Each year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) updates their marginal income tax rates. In other words, they issue new tax brackets for the year ahead to reflect the ongoing impact of inflation. For 2021, there are seven income tax brackets in the United States: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%. These will be […]

Read More about Post Title

6 minute read

Taxes

Payroll Tax Deferment Guide: Everything You Need to Know

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law. It’s a $1.9 trillion bill that extends many forms of federal assistance for businesses impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Two of the provisions found in the ARPT are the employee retention credit and the employer payroll tax deferral. These provisions are […]

Read More about Post Title

3 minute read

Taxes

Reasons Why Your Tax Refund is Delayed

The Internal Revenue Service is currently swamped. Despite that admission, you might still be anxiously waiting for your expected tax refund. The IRS says they have already processed more than 91 million individual returns from 2020. Additionally, more than 68 million refunds have already been issued to taxpayers. However, the agency is still holding more […]

Read More about Post Title

9 minute read

See All In Taxes

More from WalletGenius

Home Ownership

How To Win a Home Bidding War

I haven’t really talked about this publicly before, but we had to win a bidding war to buy our house last year. To make matters worse, it was right before the onset of the pandemic, making everything that much more stressful. Luckily, we succeeded and my family now enjoys living in a bigger, newer home. […]

Read More about Post Title

10 minute read

young couple redecorating a house Home Ownership

How To Redecorate Your House On a Budget

I’m not sure if it’s because everyone has been stuck inside due to the pandemic or just a coincidence. Whatever the reason, it seems like everyone I know has recently been updating their homes. Whether it’s a minor or major redecoration, all this time indoors has spawned a bunch of amateur interior designers. If you’ve […]

Read More about Post Title

7 minute read

Woman at Farmers' Market Save Money

How To Save Money Shopping At The Farmers’ Market

Buying from a road-side produce stand or a locals farmer’s market is an amazing experience. They are some of the best options for getting fresh (and often organic) fruit, vegetables, meats, and other products, while still supporting local farmers. Farmers’ Markets are certainly a better choice for fresh, high-quality, in-season produce. The prices there are […]

Read More about Post Title

7 minute read

stock market short seller Investing

How to Short a Stock: A Complete Guide

I first learned about short selling from my Dad. It was in the dot-com crash of the early 00s, when practically every investment was going down. Many people lost their savings because they plowed too much money into ridiculously-valued tech stocks. Looking back in retrospect, these stocks were already so high that they had no […]

Read More about Post Title

11 minute read

Man happy about investing Investing

What Are Bearer Bonds (and How Do They Work)?

A bearer bond is a fixed-income security, very similar to a regular bond. However, a bearer bond is owned by the holder (or bearer) rather than by a registered owner. The coupons for interest payments are physically attached to the bearer bond. The bondholder is required to submit the coupons to a bank for payment […]

Read More about Post Title

5 minute read

Trusted provider of accurate rates & financial information