If You Made More Than This in 2016, You Need to File a Tax Return

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Now that tax season is in full swing, you may be wondering: How do you know if you have to file a tax return with the U.S. government?

I know you want me to tell you that you don’t need to file your taxes, but chances are you do.

Sorry.

Hey, if it’s any consolation, so do I. So does pretty much everyone I know. Well, except for my 5-year-old niece. Geez, kids have all the luck.

OK, When Do I Have to File Taxes?

There are only a few circumstances in which you aren’t required to file a tax return.

And don’t assume that just because you haven’t had to file in the past, you’re automatically off the hook this year.

Whether you have to file is largely is based on whether your income for the year falls below a certain amount.

The income thresholds are part of a complex formula that also takes into account your age, filing status and the type of income you earn. Oh, and the gross income levels change each year, too.

According to the IRS, here are the gross income levels for 2016, sorted by filing status:

  • Single filing status:
    • $10,350 if you’re under age 65.
    • $11,900 if you’re 65 or older.
  • Married filing jointly:
    • $20,700 if both spouses are under age 65.
    • $21,950 if one spouse is under 65, and one is 65 or older.
    • $23,200 if both spouses are 65 or older.
  • Married filing separately: $4,050 for all ages, but only $5 if your spouse is itemizing their deductions.
  • Head of household:
    • $13,350 if you’re under age 65.
    • $14,900 if you’re 65 or older.
  • Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child:
    • $16,650 if you’re under age 65.
    • $17,900 if you’re 65 or older.

What Are the Benefits of Filing a Tax Return?

Most of us look forward to filing taxes about as much as we look forward to a root canal, but sometimes there are benefits to filing.

If you’re due a refund because you overpaid your federal income tax, the only way you can get your refund is by filing your taxes.  

Filing a return also opens up a bunch of tax credits you may be eligible for without realizing it, including first-time homebuyer and additional child credits. That means even more money in your pocket.

Still not sure if you need to file a tax return this year? Take this interactive quiz on the IRS website to find out for sure.

Your Turn: Do you have to file a tax return this year?

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She likes bringing you this information, but she is not a tax preparer, and this is not legal tax advice.