The following types of income are subject to federal income tax and must be reported on a federal tax return:
- earned income (such as wages, tips, or self-employment income)
- unearned income (such as interest, dividends, and capital gains)
- taxable scholarship and fellowship grants
- taxable alimony and separate maintenance payments
- taxable interest and unemployment compensation
Taxable income: It’s the amount of money you make after accounting for deductions and credits. This includes income from personal earnings, investments, rental properties, grants, and contracts. Most income is reported on a Form W-2, Form 1099, or an official document from the payer.
Income from self-employment is usually subject to tax. For additional information, see Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center.
Foreign earned income – If you received wages or self-employment income from overseas employment or US businesses, you might need to file a return to claim your foreign earned income exclusion and/or foreign housing exclusion/deduction. For additional help on this topic, see Foreign Income Tax Guide.
Tax-free income: Some types of income are not taxable, and others may be exempt or partly exempt, depending on the facts. Some types of tax-free income include life insurance proceeds, inheritances, gifts, certain disability payments, veterans’ benefits, and tax-free interest.
Interest income from tax-exempt municipal bonds issued in your state of residence is not subject to federal income tax. If you live in the District of Columbia or Puerto Rico, you may exclude interest income on bonds issued by that jurisdiction.
For more information on tax-free bonds, see Publication 550, Investment Income and Expenses.
How much do you have to make to file taxes — What is the minimum income to file taxes?
The minimum income requirement varies based on your filing status and age. For example, the minimal amount for a single person under 65 in 2020 is $12,400. If your income is insufficient to meet that criterion, you generally do not have to submit a federal tax return.
How much do you have to make to file taxes?
- Income greater than or equal to $12,400 if under the 65 years old
- Income greater than or equal to $14,050 if 65 years old or older
Married filing jointly:
- Income greater than or equal to $24,800 if couple is under 65 years old
- Income greater than or equal to $26,100 if at least one spouse is under 65 years old
- Income greater than or equal to $27,400 if both spouses are 65 years old or older
Married filing separately — Income greater than or equal to $5 for all ages
Head of household:
- Income greater than or equal to $18,650 if under 65 years old
- Income greater than or equal to $20,600 if 65 years old or older
Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child:
- Income greater than or equal to $24,800 if under 65 years old
- Income greater than or equal to $26,100 if 65 years old or older
You may also be required to file for other reasons, such as if you’re self-employed or paid on a 1099-MISC form or because you obtained health insurance from a state or federal market. Different separate filing requirements apply if you can be claimed as dependent on someone else’s tax return. For additional information, see IRS Publication 501.
Do I Have to File Taxes? — Additional Considerations
Even if your income is low enough to qualify you for a tax exemption, you may still have to submit taxes if your situation changes.
Refund of withheld income taxes: If you were paid during the year and had your taxes withheld, you may want to file a return to receive a refund of the money held back.
Earned income tax credit: If you owe taxes, a tax credit can help you save money. A refundable credit may be used even if you have not paid taxes in advance.
The Earned Income Tax Credit, often called the “EITC,” is a refundable tax credit that helps low-income individuals and families. The EITC is available to workers with an adjusted gross income between $15,270 and $46,408 if they have at least one qualifying child under 17.