Minimum Income Requirements for 2017 Tax Returns

Income Tax Filing Requirements for Tax Year 2017

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Not everyone is required to file a federal income tax return. Only those whose incomes exceed certain amounts must do so. The Internal Revenue Service publishes three tables of filing requirements: one for independent taxpayers, one for dependents, and a third for miscellaneous other situations when a tax return is required.

Are You Required to File a Return?

Five things determine whether you must file a tax return and how much you're able to earn before you have to do so:

According to the IRS, gross income means "all income you receive in the form of money, goods, property, and services that is not exempt from tax." These income thresholds pertain to the income you earned in 2017, which you must report when you file your tax return for the 2017 tax year in 2018. 

Filing Requirements by Income

If your income equals or exceeds the amounts shown in the chart below, you'll have to file a tax return. 

These tables are published by the IRS in Publication 17 and Publication 501. They're updated each year. 

Table 1. 2017 Filing Requirements for Independent Taxpayers
 
If your filing status is...And at the end of 2017 you were...Then you must file a return if your gross income was at least...
Singleunder 65$10,400
65 or older$11,950
Married filing jointlyunder 65 (both spouses)$20,800
65 or older (one spouse)$22,050 
65 or older (both spouses)$23,300 
Married filing separatelyany age$4,050
Head of householdunder 65$13,400
65 or older$14,950
Qualifying widow(er) with dependent childunder 65$16,750
65 or older$18,000

2017 Filing Requirements for Dependents *

If you're single, if someone else can claim you as a dependent, and if you're not age 65 or older or blind, you must file a return in any of the following circumstances:

  • Unearned income was more than $1,050
  • Earned income was more than $6,350
  • Gross income was more than the larger of $1,050 or on earned income up to $6,000 plus $350

    Single dependents age 65 or older or blind must file a return in any of the following circumstances:

    • Unearned income was more than $2,600, or $4,150 if you are both 65 or older and blind
    • Earned income was more than $7,600, or $8,850 if you are both 65 or older and blind
    • Gross income was more than the larger of $2,600 ($4,150 if both 65 or older and blind) or on earned income up to $6,000 plus $1,900 ($3,450 if 65 or older and blind)

    Married dependents who are not age 65 or older or blind must file a return in any of the following circumstances:

    • Unearned income was more than $1,050
    • Earned income was more than $6,350
    • Gross income was at least $5 and your spouse files a separate return and itemizes deductions
    • Gross income was more than the larger of $1,050 or on earned income up to $6,000 plus $350

    Married dependents age 65 or older or blind must file a return in any of the following circumstances:

    • Unearned income was more than $2,300, or $3,550 if you are both 65 or older and blind
    • Earned income was more than $7,600, or $8,850 if you are both 65 or older and blind
    • Gross income was at least $5 and your spouse files a separate return and itemizes deductions
    • Gross income was more than the larger of $2,300 ($3,550 if both 65 or older and blind) or on earned income up to $6,000 plus $1,600 ($2,850 if both 65 or older and blind) 

      * Excerpted from IRS Publication 929

      Some Other Situations When You Must File a 2017 Return *

      You'll have to file a return if any of these four conditions apply to you in 2017:

      • You owe any special taxes, including the alternative minimum tax or additional tax on a qualified retirement plan such as an individual IRA or other tax-favored account. But if you only have to file a return because you owe this additional tax, you can file IRS Form 5329 by itself instead. Other special taxes include Social Security and Medicare on tips you did not report to your employer or taxes on wages you received from an employer who did not withhold these taxes from your pay. They also include recapture taxes, such as for the first-time homebuyer’s credit, uncollected Social Security and Medicare or RRTA tax on tips you reported to your employer, and additional taxes on health savings accounts.
      • You—or your spouse if you're filing jointly—received HSA, Archer MSA, or Medicare Advantage MSA distributions.
      • You had net earnings from self-employment of at least $400.
      • You had wages of $108.28 or more from a church or qualified church-controlled organization that's exempt from employer Social Security and Medicare taxes. 
      • You, your spouse, or a dependent were enrolled in coverage through the Healthcare.gov Marketplace under the terms of the Affordable Care Act and premium tax credit payments were made to you. You'll know if this pertains to you because you'll receive a Form 1095-A detailing the payments. 

      * Excerpted from IRS Publication 17

      So What Do All These Numbers Mean?

      Filing requirements are a taxpayer's standard deduction and personal exemption amounts added together. Here's an example.

      In Table 1, a single person under the age of 65 has a filing requirement of $10,400 for the year 2017. A single person has a standard deduction of $6,350 in 2017. Table 1 is for independent taxpayers, so this single person is eligible to claim at least one personal exemption for himself which amounts $4,050 for 2017. When we add $6,350 and $4,050, we come up with $10,400, and that's the same as the filing requirement amount.

      The standard deduction varies based on a taxpayer's filing status, and people who are 65 or older and blind persons get an additional standard deduction on top of their regular standard deduction. The filing requirements differ because of these different amounts. The filing requirement figure represents the minimum amount of deductions a person might have based on their tax situation.

      A person's tax liability—what he's required to pay the IRS in federal tax—is based on taxable income, which is his gross income minus any deductions. In other words, no tax is typically due when a person's taxable income is less than the total of his standard deduction and personal exemption, but there are situations in which a person's income might fall below the filing requirement yet he would still have a tax liability such as those described above. 

      The filing requirement numbers can change each year because the standard deduction and personal exemption amounts can change each year. They're adjusted annually based on changes in inflation.

      When Would It Be a Good Idea to File a Return Even If It's Not Required? 

      You'll want to file a return even if you're not required to do so if you're going to receive a tax refund. If you had any taxes withheld from your income such as withholding on wages or retirement plan distributions, you overpaid your taxes if your income falls below the above thresholds. You do not have a tax liability so you're entitled to a refund of the money that was withheld. The IRS will keep it unless you file a tax return. 

      It could also generate a tax refund if you're eligible for one or more of the refundable tax credits, such as the earned income credit, the child tax credit, or the American Opportunity credit. You'd have to file a tax return to calculate these credits and to request a refund from the IRS.

      You might also want to file a tax return as a precaution. The IRS has certain time limits for issuing tax refunds, for conducting audits, and for collecting taxes it thinks someone might owe. These time limits are called statutes of limitations. In general, the IRS has three years from the date a tax return is filed to begin an audit, and it has 10 years from the date a tax return was filed to collect the tax. If a return isn't filed, those time limits never begin. This could potentially leave you exposed to audit or collection actions. Filing a return starts the clock ticking on these statutes of limitations.

      You might want to file a return even if you don't have to if you have been—or might be—a victim of identity theft. Filing a return puts the IRS on notice regarding what your true income was for the year, and it prevents an identity thief from filing a fake tax return using your name and Social Security number.