Federal Tax Filing Guidelines
SHOULD I FILE A TAX RETURN?
Helpful Tax Filing Guidelines
Whether to file a federal income tax return is a question many of us face each year during tax season. It is helpful to know where to find the rules and where to seek advice.
You must file a federal income tax return if your income falls above a certain level, as shown below. The level varies depending on your filing status, age, and the type of income you receive. Filing status refers to whether you are filing your tax return as single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, or head of household.
You must file a federal income tax return if your income falls above a certain level. The level varies depending on your filing status, age, and the type of income you receive. Filing status refers to whether you are filing your tax return as single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, or head of household.The information below shows filing threshholds for tax year 2014. For up-to-date information, see IRS Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.
* If you were self-employed, you must file a tax return if you earned at least $400
DON’T IGNORE YOUR FILING OBLIGATIONS!
If you have a filing obligation, you need to file a tax return. It is your legal responsibility. If you do not file a return, it is likely that IRS will file a return on your behalf. This is called a “substitute for return” [SFR]. You do not want IRS to file an SFR, as the agency will give you very few tax breaks—and you will likely end up owing much more than you would if you filed your own return.
For self-employed workers, filing tax returns allows you to claim your business expense deductions, which can significantly reduce your tax liability. Again, these deductions are excluded on the SFR.
SHOULD I FILE A RETURN EVEN IF I'M NOT REQUIRED TO DO SO?
Even when you aren’t required to file a tax return, there are several reasons why you may want to file anyway:
- You may have had federal income tax withheld in excess of tax you owe, meaning you could get money back
- You may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which could significantly increase the size of your refund
- You may qualify for the Additional Child Tax Credit and get a larger refund
- You may be able to receive certain educational tax credits if you were a student
- Failure to file a return may cause you to miss out on Social Security earnings credits.
WHAT IF I HAVEN'T FILED A RETURN IN YEARS?
Some people have failed to file required tax returns and are afraid to re-enter the tax system. Taxpayers who file overdue returns on their own are often treated better than those who are caught. For example, once a return is filed, IRS has a deadline to audit it. Once the deadline has passed, the return is final. If no return is filed, IRS can come after the taxpayer at any time, even after many years.
If you haven’t filed required returns in previous years, it is important to seek advice from a qualified tax professional.
WHERE CAN I GET HELP?
The Volunteer Income tax Association (VITA) Program offers free tax preparation assistance during tax season to people who make $50,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their current year tax returns. You can find a VITA site near you by calling (800) 906-9887.
The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers FREE tax help to individuals who are age 60 or older. You can find a TCE program near you by calling 1-888-227-7669
If your adjusted gross income is $58,000 or less in 2014, free electronic filing services are available through IRS.gov. You simply answer questions as you go to get help filling out the forms.
Last Updated: October 2015