- Written by Jim Miller Jim Miller
Dear Savvy Senior,
What are the IRS income tax filing requirements for seniors this year? I didn’t file a tax return the past two years because my income was below the filing requirements, but I got a part-time job late last year, so I’m wondering if I’m required to file this year.
– Part-time Retiree
Whether or not you are required to file a federal income tax return this year will depend on how much you earned last year (in 2017) and the source of that income, as well as your age and filing status.
Here’s a rundown of this tax season’s (2017) IRS tax filing requirement thresholds. For most people, this is pretty straightforward.
If your 2017 gross income — which includes all taxable income, not counting your Social Security benefits, unless you are married and filing separately — was below the threshold for your filing status and age, you probably won’t have to file. But if it’s over, you will.
• Single: $10,400 ($11,950 if you’re 65 or older by Jan. 1, 2018)
• Married filing jointly: $20,800 ($22,050 if you or your spouse is 65 or older or $23,300 if you’re both over 65)
• Married filing separately: $4,050 at any age
• Head of household: $13,400 ($14,950 if age 65 or older)
• Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child: $16,750 ($18,000 if age 65 or older)
To get a detailed breakdown on federal filing requirements, along with information on taxable and nontaxable income, call the IRS at (800) 829-3676 and ask them to mail you a free copy of the Tax Guide for Seniors (publication 554), or see www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p554.pdf.
Check Here Too
There are other financial situations that can require you to file a tax return, even if your gross income falls below the IRS filing requirement.
For example, if you had earnings from self-employment in 2017 of $400 or more, or if you’re receiving Social Security benefits and half your benefits plus all other income, including tax-exempt interest, exceeds $25,000 (or $32,000 if you are married filing jointly), you’ll probably need to file.
To figure this out, the IRS offers an interactive tax assistant tool on their website that asks a series of questions that will help you determine if you’re required to file or if you should file because you’re due a refund. It takes less than 15 minutes to complete.
You can access this tool at www.irs.gov/filing; click on the “Do I Need to File?” button. Or, you can get assistance over the phone by calling the IRS helpline at (800) 829-1040.
You can also get face-to-face help at a Taxpayer Assistance Center. See www.irs.gov/localcontacts or call (800) 829-1040 to locate a center near you.
Check Your State
Even if you’re not required to file a federal tax return this year, don’t assume that you’re also excused from filing state income taxes. The rules for your state might be very different.
Check with your state tax agency before concluding that you’re entirely in the clear. For links to state tax agencies, see www.taxadmin.org/state-tax-agencies.
Tax Preparation Help
If you find that you do need to file a tax return this year, you can get help through the Tax Counseling for the Elderly program.
Sponsored by the IRS, TCE provides free tax preparation and counseling to middle- and low-income taxpayers, age 60 and older. Call (800) 906-9887 or visit www.irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep to locate a service near you.
Also check with AARP, a participant in the TCE program that provides free tax preparation at around 5,000 sites nationwide. You don’t have to be an AARP member to use this service.
To locate an AARP Tax-Aide site, call (888) 227-7669, visit www.AARP.org/findtaxhelp, or check out the local listings included in this issue of 50plus LIFE.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of The Savvy Senior book.