Tax Refund


Feeling a bit confused about tax filing? You’re not alone.

How much do you have to make to file taxes? Do you have to file taxes every year? When do you start paying tax? These are common questions during this time of year, and we’ve got you covered.

Understanding the minimum income to file taxes is key to demystifying the tax filing process. Let’s break down the process together, exploring the filing limits and answering your most frequently asked questions, helping you navigate this tax season with confidence.

IRS filing requirements

Curious about whether you have to file taxes? Let’s break it down.

The question of “Do I have to file taxes?” is a yes for most people. No matter your income or lack thereof, you should file a tax return as you may end up getting money back.

But what you’re more likely curious about is whether you’re “required” by the IRS to file. If you’re a U.S. citizen or resident alien, receive taxable income, and meet filing requirements, you are required to file an income tax return.

2023 filing requirements

According to the IRS, you must check these income requirements to determine if you’re required to file:

  • Filing Status: The five filing statuses are single, married (filing separately), married (filing jointly), head of household, and qualifying surviving spouse with a dependent child. Your filing status has a bearing on how you are taxed and the deductions and credits you are eligible to claim.
  • Gross Income: If you’re under 65 years young; All your income, including wages, tips, capital gains, tips, gambling winnings, and more, should be claimed on your taxes if, in 2023, the total is at least:
    • Single: $13,850
    • Married (MFS-filing separately-any age): $5 (Yes, really. This is not a typo)
    • Married (MFJ-filing jointly): $27,700
    • Head of Household (HOH): $20,800
    • Qualifying Surviving Spouse (QSS): $27,700
  • Age: If you’re 65 or older, you can have a higher gross income before you’re required to file taxes.
    • Single: $15,700
    • Married (filing jointly) one spouse 65 & older: $29,200
    • Married (filing jointly) both spouses 65 & older: $30,700
    • Head of Household: $22,650
    • Qualifying Surviving Spouse (QSS): $29,200
Professional Black woman opening her paycheck at her desk.

What exactly is your adjusted gross income?

Your adjusted gross income is basically your entire gross income minus any allowable tax deductions called above-the-line deductions. Some of them include:

  • Half of the self-employment taxes you pay 
  • Self-employed health insurance premiums 
  • Contributions to certain retirement accounts (such as a traditional IRA) 
  • Student loan interest paid 
  • Educator expenses
  • Health Savings Account
  • Moving Expenses (members of armed forces only)
  • Alimony Paid (only for divorce or separation agreements before January 1, 2019)

Your adjusted gross income is not the same as your taxable income.

What’s the difference between your adjusted gross income and taxable income?

After your adjusted gross income has been calculated, you are then allowed to either take a standard deduction or itemized deductions. The standard deduction ($13,850- Single or  MFS*, $27,700- Married filing jointly or Qualifying Surviving Spouse, $20,800-Head of Household).

Also, if you, your spouse, or both are 65 and over or are blind, the standard deduction is higher. Whichever you are eligible for(standard versus itemized deductions) and benefits you the most can be subtracted from adjusted gross income, and the result is your taxable income.

Special considerations for dependents and seniors

For a dependent child whose gross income is below $13,850, or $27,700 for married filing jointly, filing may not be mandatory.

If you’re 65 or older and have a gross income of under $15,700 filing as single, you aren’t required to file a return. The income thresholds are a little different if you’re filing jointly, depending on if one or both spouses are 65 or older. The gross income requirements are $29,200 if one spouse is 65 or older and $30,700 if both spouses are 65 or older.

Senior couple reviewing documents together while having coffee

Additionally, for those who are 65 or older and have tax-exempt income, such as Social Security benefits or certain pensions, it’s important to understand the impact. While tax-exempt income doesn’t directly affect your tax bracket, it may influence whether you need to file.

When filing taxes, take into account all income sources to determine your filing requirements.

Benefits of filing taxes even when not required

If you’re wondering whether you have to file taxes if you make under the IRS income requirements, you should know that while it might not be mandatory, the benefits of filing taxes can make it a smart move. The IRS reports over $1 billion in unclaimed refunds every year and the average unclaimed refund is over $800. People making under the IRS income requirements can claim their refunds but they need to file to do so. Filing opens the door to claiming various tax credits and refunds, potentially putting more money back in your wallet.  

Ways you might get money back even if you aren’t required to file a tax return.

The benefits of filing taxes become evident when you explore tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) which is a fully refundable credit or the Child Tax Credit. These credits can significantly reduce your tax bill or result in a bigger refund, boosting your financial well-being. With refundable credits you can receive the credit even if you don’t owe any taxes, unlike non-refundable credits where you are only allowed to take the credit up to the taxes you owe.

Additionally, if you had too much tax withheld from your paycheck, filing allows you to claim a refund and regain those overpaid funds.

So, while the question of “Do you have to file taxes every year?” may not always have a straightforward answer, recognizing the benefits of filing can turn tax time into a financial advantage through valuable credits and potential refunds. If you had federal taxes withheld and you are eligible for refundable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit, you should file your taxes so you don’t leave any money on the table.

Navigating tax filing deadlines and avoiding penalties

When do you start paying taxes, and what’s the deal with filing deadlines? Well, each year, you must file your taxes by the deadline to avoid the consequences of late filing. The tax filing deadline for 2024 is April 15th. If you think you can’t make the deadline, make sure to file an extension to avoid extra headache.

Man using digital calendar.

One common pitfall is procrastination. Waiting until the last minute increases the likelihood of errors and oversight. You can start by using TurboTax free tax checklist to help you gather your documents then go online with TurboTax where you can choose to do your taxes yourself, get help along the way and have your taxes reviewed before you file, or get your taxes fully prepared by a TurboTax Live Full Service Expert.

Another pitfall is assuming you don’t need to file because you don’t owe taxes. Even if you don’t owe, filing on time is best to prevent failure-to-file penalties.

To make filing as least stressful as possible, stay informed about the deadlines and use TurboTax tools and experts to navigate the process smoothly.

Maximizing your refunds and credits

You can maximize your refunds by understanding the income limit to file taxes and exploring available credits. The income limit to file taxes varies, but being aware of this threshold is crucial. If your income exceeds the limit, then filing is mandatory. But even if it’s not, filing a tax return opens avenues to claim credits and refunds.

Additionally, if you have supplemental income or are self-employed, maximizing your refund requires careful consideration. Deductible business expenses, like office supplies or mileage, can help reduce taxable income.

If you have dependents, don’t forget about checking your eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Child and Dependent Care Credit. Look into education credits, like the American Opportunity Credit, if you or your child are pursuing higher education.

Additionally, don’t overlook the Saver’s Credit for contributions to retirement accounts. You can enhance your financial outcomes during tax season by staying informed about the income limit to file taxes and leveraging your applicable credits.

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Elle Martinez
Elle Martinez

Elle helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second. More from Elle Martinez

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