How much do you have to make to file taxes?

While filing taxes is an annual event for many households, it may surprise you to learn that not everyone is required to file federal taxes. But how do you know whether you need to file taxes? 

In general, there are three primary factors: income, age and filing status. But there’s plenty more to it. And the rules can differ between federal and state taxes.

Key takeaways

  • Whether you need to file taxes depends on age, income and filing status.
  • Self-employed workers are required to file a tax return and pay self-employment taxes.
  • Even when you don’t legally have to file taxes, there may be benefits to filing.

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Income requirements for filing taxes

Typically the gross income requirements for filing taxes are different each year, and they vary by age and filing status. For example, in the 2020 tax year, if someone under 65 filing as a single taxpayer made at least $12,400, they had to file taxes. In 2021, for that same age and filing status, the income threshold was $12,550.

If you’re wondering if you need to file federal taxes for the 2022 tax year, the following guidelines from the IRS might help:

Filing status Age at the end of 2022 Minimum gross income to file a tax return

Under 65

65 or older



Head of household

Under 65

65 or older



Married, filing jointly

Under 65 (both spouses)

65 or older (one spouse)

65 or older (both spouses)




Married, filing separately Any age $5
Qualifying widow(er)

Under 65 

65 or older




IRS age requirement rules

There’s not a specific age for when you have to file taxes. It mostly has to do with income. But kids don’t generally file a tax return while they are listed as dependents—unless they meet the qualifying income status. According to the IRS, a dependent is either a qualifying child or a qualifying relative of the taxpayer.

Filing rules for dependents

There are certain rules for dependents regarding their: 

  • Relationship to the taxpayer 
  • Age 
  • Residency
  • Support from the taxpayer 

The IRS provides specifics around each requirement. For example, a potential dependent may meet the age requirement if they’re under 19 years old, under 24 years old and a full-time student, or any age with a permanent disability. 

If a dependent has a job and earns money, they could be required to file and pay taxes for income above a certain amount. That could include:

  • Earned income from a job where they received a salary, hourly wages or tips
  • Unearned income from things like investment dividends, investment interest or unemployment benefits

Not all dependents may be required to file, but it could be beneficial if they paid income taxes or qualify for tax credits, for example.

Filing taxes when you’re self-employed

While self-employment can mean anything from a summer job mowing lawns to the full-time management of a large company, you’re responsible for paying taxes when you work for yourself. 

If you’re unsure if you’re considered self-employed, these few questions may help:

  • Do you do business as an independent contractor or a sole proprietor?
  • Do you have a side business?
  • Do you have a variety of side gigs that bring in income?
  • Are you in a working relationship with two or more individuals to do business or trade?

When you’re self-employed, you’ll usually file a tax return and pay taxes quarterly, such as income taxes and self-employment taxes for Social Security and Medicare.

Self-employed workers typically have to pay taxes when they earn a minimum of $400. However, even with a self-employment income of less than $400, other requirements may apply. So it’s a good idea to review Forms 1040 and 1040-SR or consult a professional.

Additional reasons to file taxes

What if you’re not required to file? Should you file anyway? Even if you don’t think you need to file, you could qualify for tax credits that may result in a refund. Or if your employer withheld federal taxes, you may be eligible for a refund. 

When you file a tax return—even if you don’t need to—you give the IRS your current information, including where to send money due to you. 

Two common tax credits you may qualify for are the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit.

Child tax credit 

If you have children, you may be eligible for the child tax credit. Qualifying children can also include relatives, like a stepsister, nephew, half brother or grandchild.

To ensure you get any money owed to you, you’d need to file a tax return, even when you may not be required to do so. The tax credit is typically up to $2,000 for qualifying children.

To be eligible, a child must:

  • Be under the age of 17 at the end of the tax year
  • Have a Social Security number that’s valid for employment
  • Be claimed as a dependent on your tax returns

Earned income tax credit

The earned income tax credit (EITC) is a federal tax credit for low- to moderate-income families and workers.

Qualifications for this tax credit include:

If you qualify, it may increase your refund or reduce the amount of taxes you owe. To check your qualification status, visit the IRS EITC assistant. There you will enter general information and details for your filing status, AGI and qualifying children. 

You may wonder: What happens to the money you’re owed if you don’t file a tax return? After a certain time period, your money goes to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. 

Avoiding penalties when filing taxes

It’s important to file taxes and pay what you owe so you don’t face penalties from the IRS. 

To help avoid penalties, you can:

  • File a complete and accurate tax return before the deadline
  • Pay any owed taxes on time
  • Submit full payments properly 

The IRS will notify you of any penalties by mail, sending a letter or notice that explains the penalty, the amount due and any other important information.

Filing taxes in a nutshell

Filing taxes is something many Americans do every year. Whether you have to file taxes can depend on different factors.

By understanding how taxes work, you can better anticipate when your income meets the requirements for filing taxes, how you might save on taxes and what you need to do to avoid any penalties. And if you’re looking forward to getting a tax refund, you can learn more about when to expect it. 

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