Not everyone has to complete a tax return. If your income is under a certain limit, the Internal Revenue Service does not require you to file. However, the exact income limit depends on your age, tax filing status and dependent status. Even if you don't have to file a tax return, you may want to anyway to receive any tax refund you're owed.
Filing Status and Age
The IRS has different filing requirements depending on your tax status. For the 2014 tax year, single taxpayers under 65 must file if they earn at least $10,150, and those over 65 must file if they earn at least $11,700. If you're filing as head of household, you must file if you earn at least $13,050 if you're under 65; the limit is $14,600 is you're over 65. Married couples filing jointly under 65 must file if they collectively earn at least $20,300. The limit increases to $21,500 if one spouse is over 65 and to $22,700 if both spouses are over 65. A widow under 65 with a dependent child must file if she earns $16,350 or more; the trigger is $17,550 if she is over 65. These thresholds do change, so check the current limits on the IRS website.
If your child earned income, he may have to file a separate tax return. The filing requirements are a bit more nuanced for individuals claimed as dependents. A dependent must file a tax return if he has earned income, like wages from a job, of at least $6,200. He must file if he has unearned income, like interest or dividend income, of at least $1,000. He'll also have to file if he has self-employment earnings over $400.
Dependent Tax Returns
If your dependent does have to file a tax return, he won't necessarily get the same amount of tax benefits. Since someone else is claiming him as a tax deduction, he won't receive a personal exemption on his own return. His standard deduction will be a little lower as well. However, he can still file his tax return using Form 1040 1040A or 1040EZ, and the mechanics of filing the tax return are the same as they are for anyone else.
Should You File?
Even if you aren't technically required to file a tax return, it's generally a good idea to do so. If you worked as an employee, you probably had federal and state taxes withheld from your paycheck during the year. It's possible your employer withheld too much in taxes and you'll be due a refund. On top of that, you may also be eligible for deductions and credits, such as the tuition and fees deduction, that reduce your taxable income and make your refund even larger. The only way to receive that cash is to file a tax return.