Do I Need To File A Tax Return?

That's a great question, however, the answer is not as simple as you might think. The federal income tax filing requirements are well documented inside the Form 1040EZ, Form 1040A, and Form 1040 instructions booklets found on our site. Do you have to file? asks the IRS from inside the instructions booklets. Use chart A, B, or C to see if you must file a return. Asterisk, double asterisk, triple asterisk. See Pub 570. See Tax Topic 901. Tip, even if you do all that - the instructions continue, and your head starts to hurt.

There is a simpler way to determine if you need to file a federal tax return each year. It's called the Interactive Tax Assistant which we introduce to you below. We do want to stress, however, that there is a difference between asking yourself do I need to file a tax return and should I file a tax return. Even though the Interactive Tax Assistant or any other method of determination tells you that you don't have to file, you still might want to file a tax return.

You should file an income tax return to benefit from any available low income tax credits, senior income tax credits, claim any federal income tax withheld, state income tax withheld, carry forward unused credits from prior years, or need an authoritative way to document your income, place of residence, and family members each year.

Some low income taxpayers, college students included, might be afraid of that health care coverage shared responsibility payment they heard about on TV. Don't be afraid, instead, get informed. You can claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) without having qualifying healthcare coverage, for example. Please read Form 8965 Health Coverage Exemptions where it says on page 3 types of coverage exemptions: income below the filing threshold, and, coverage considered unaffordable. See also the instructions and examples for Line 7 Household Income or Gross Income Below Filing Threshold on page 6.

Interactive Tax Assistant

The Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA) is a tool provided by the IRS which guides you through a list of questions. This virtual tax assistant can be used for the current 2016 tax year and the two prior tax years 2015 and 2014. To make the most out of your session with the tax assistant, have your W-2 forms, 1099 forms, and prior year income tax return on hand. The tool is designed for US citizens and aliens residing within the US for the entire year.

Do I need to file a tax return?

Allow yourself 15 minutes to complete the questions. What we like most about the Interactive Tax Assistant are the clickable help links for important tax terms, income tax withheld in the image above. The help links provide examples or refer you to publications you may need to read before answering yes or no to a particular question. We suggest that you click and view each one.

Click this link to visit the Interactive Tax Assitant on the IRS website. Look for the underlined word Begin at the bottom left of the article.

Last updated: March 1, 2017