Whether you need to file tax returns depends on your earnings, your age and your filing status. In many cases, even if you meet regulations eliminating the need to file a tax return, you may want to if you qualify for tax credits that could generate a rebate. Always check the IRS website to learn prevailing rules for the year in which you must or should file or are exempt from filing a federal tax return. The maximum earnings reported are as of 2012, and these numbers are subject to change annually.
If you are single and under age 65, you can earn up to $9,499 in a year and not file a tax return. Should you be 65 or older, you could earn up to $10,949 and be exempt from filing a federal tax return. However, you may qualify for an Earned Income Tax Credit, which is refundable in cash to you. Also, if you've had income taxes withheld, you should file to receive a refund of your money.
Married Taxpayers Filing Jointly
If both married taxpayers are under 65, they can earn up to $18,999 and not need to file a return. Should one of the spouses have celebrated a 65th birthday, both could earn up to $20,149 without filing a tax return. If both spouses are 65 or beyond, they can earn up to $21,299 and not file a federal return. However, if one or both of you worked and had taxes withheld, you'll probably want to file to get a refund since you'll have no tax liability.
Married Taxpayers Who File Separately
If you're married and file separately, only up to $3,699 of earnings will permit you to not file a tax return. This rule applies regardless of your ages. Even if one spouse dies during the tax year, if the partners were not living together, each spouse, or the estate thereof, must file a return if they jointly earned $3,700 or more during the year.
Head of Household Filers
Those filing as head of household and under age 65 can earn up to $12,199 per year and be exempt from filing a tax return. Should the head of household be 65 or older, the taxpayer could earn up to $16, 499 without filing taxes. Once again, should the taxpayer have tax withholdings during the year, the head of household should file to qualify for and receive a refund.
Widows and Widowers with a Dependent Child
A widow or widower with a minor or adult dependent child can earn up to $15,299 if they are under 65. Should the widow or widower be 65 or older, the taxpayer could earn up to $16,449 without tax filing requirements. However, these taxpayers may also qualify for both the Earned Income Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit, both of which generate refundable funds greater than any withholding tax balances, giving these taxpayers refund checks beyond any of their earnings withheld by employers.