The Internal Revenue Service imposes taxes on a variety of unearned income sources such as interest, dividends and withdrawals from certain retirement accounts that can force retirees to file tax returns. Requirements for filing income tax returns depend on age rather than employment status. If you are under age 65, you face different filing requirements than those who are 65 or older regardless of whether you are employed or retired.
Under Age 65
Workers sometimes retire before reaching age 65, but retiring early doesn't change tax filing requirements. If you are under age 65, as of publication you are required to file a tax return if your gross income was at least $9,500 as a single taxpayer, $12,200 as a head of a household and $19,000 as a married person filing a joint return. If you are married and choose to file a separate return, you must file a return if your income is $3,700 or more.
Age 65 or Older
Age 65 is often associated with retirement because 65 is considered full retirement age for receiving Social Security retirement benefits for those born in 1937 or earlier. Income tax filing requirements change at age 65 even if you choose to keep working. If you are over age 65 you must file a return if your gross income was at least $10,950 as a single filer as of publication, $13,650 as a head of a household, and $21,300 as a joint filer if your spouse was also 65 or older. If one spouse is under 65 and the other is 65 or older, the income limit is $20,150.
Elderly individuals sometimes rely on friends and family members for financial support during retirement. An elderly individual may qualify as a dependent on the tax return of another taxpayer if that person pays for more than half of the elderly person's support for the year. A single dependent aged 65 or older is required to file an income tax return if he has unearned income that exceeds $2,400 or earned income that exceeds $7,250, as of publication. Dependents under age 65 must file if unearned income exceeds $950 or if earned income exceeds $5,800.
If you have low income, you may not be required to file an income tax return, but you can choose to file a tax return even when you aren't required to file. Voluntarily filing a tax return may allow you to get a tax refund if you overpaid taxes due to tax withholding or estimated tax payments. Filing a return also gives you the opportunity to claim any tax deductions and credits to which you are entitled.
Gregory Hamel has been a writer since September 2008 and has also authored three novels. He has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from St. Olaf College. Hamel maintains a blog focused on massive open online courses and computer programming.