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Different Requirements Determine Who Has to File a Tax Return

You might think everyone living in the US has to file a tax return. But there are some folks who don’t. Here’s how to figure out if you’re one of the lucky few.

Gross Income

The most obvious determining factor in who has to file a tax return is gross income. Gross income is how much you’re paid before any deductions (like for federal withholding or Social Security). If your gross income is equal to or beyond a certain threshold, you have to file.

What’s that threshold? Well, it’s decided by your filing status (Single, Head of Household, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, or Qualifying Widow/Widower) and your age (under 65, or 65 or older). The gross income threshold is the same as the standard deduction for your filing status. Here are those thresholds in 2024:

  • Single under 65 – $13,850 or more; over 65 – $15,700.
  • Head of Household under 65 – $20,800; over 65 – $22,650.
  • Married Filing Jointly under 65 (both spouses) – $$27,700; over 65 (one spouse) – $29,200; over 65 (both spouses) $30,700.
  • Married Filing Separately (any age) – $5.
  • Qualifying Widow/Widower under 65 – $27,700; over 65 – $29,200.


Anyone whose net income from self-employment is $400 or more has to file a tax return. Not only that, but the IRS expects quarterly estimated tax payments against what you’ll owe.

What Are the Benefits of Filing?

There actually can be benefits to filing a tax return. Number one: Most people (about 3 in 4) get a refund. Also, if you’re self-employed, the government uses your information to calculate your Social Security benefit.

Should I File a Return if I Don’t Have to?

Even if you don’t have to file, you might want to. If your employer withheld income tax from your pay but you don’t owe any, you should be able to get that refunded to you.

Also, if you’re eligible for certain credits, you can get additional money back. Those credits include the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, American Opportunity Credit, Child and Dependent Care Credit, and more. With some of those credits, you can even qualify for a refund when you haven’t had any withholding.


The IRS has an interactive tool that can help you figure out if you need to file.

You can find out more about tax credits here.

Lastly, you can learn more about our services here!