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 federal tax forms 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 Form 1040 instructions or the Interactive Tax Assistant tells you that you don't have to file a tax return, you still might want to.
You should file an income tax return to benefit from any available low income and senior income tax credits. Claim any federal or state income tax withheld. Are carrying forward any unused credits from prior years. Or need an authoritative way to document your income, place of residence, and family members each year.
Immigration, banking, and student loan applications are a few very good reasons to consider filing even if you are below the minimum income amount required. Many government and banking like application processes will request copies of your last three years of income tax returns, for example. Also, keep in mind that there is no statute of limitations for assessing and collecting income tax due if no return has been filed.
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 2018 tax year and the two prior tax years 2017 and 2016. 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.
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 Assistant on the IRS website. Look for the underlined word Begin at the bottom left of the article.
Last updated: January 5, 2019