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Do I Have to File a Federal Tax Return?

You must file a federal income tax return if you are a citizen or resident of the United States or a resident of Puerto Rico and you meet the filing requirements discussed below. (Note: The filing requirements discussed below are for typical individual income earners. Different requirements exist for certain other groups. Click on the following links from the IRS for more information on filing requirements for Dependents, Children Under 14, Self-Employed Persons, and Aliens.)

If you are a U.S. citizen or resident, whether you must file a return depends on three factors:

  1. Your gross income,

  2. Your filing status, and

  3. Your age.

1. Gross Income

The table below illustrates filing requirements based on an individual's "gross income." This includes all income you receive in the form of money, goods, property, and services that is not exempt from tax. It also includes income from sources outside the United States (even if you may exclude all or part of it). Get more information on Common Types of Income from the IRS.

Community income.

If you are married and your permanent home is in a community property state, half of any income described by state law as community income may be considered yours. This affects your federal taxes, including whether you must file if you do not file a joint return with your spouse. See Publication 555, Community Property , for more information.

Table: 2013 Filing Requirements for Most Taxpayers

IF your filing status is... AND at the end of 2013 you
were...*
THEN file a return if
your gross income
was at least...**
single under 65 $9,750
  65 or older $11,200
married filing jointly*** under 65 (both spouses) $19,500
  65 or older (one spouse) $20,650
  65 or older (both spouses) $21,800
married filing separately any age $3,800
head of household under 65 $12,500
  65 or older $13,950
qualifying widow(er) with under 65 $15,700
dependent child 65 or older $16,850  
* If you turn 65, you are considered to be age 65 at the on January 1, 2014, you are considered end of 2013.
** Gross income means all income you received in the form of money, goods, property, and services that is not exempt from tax, including any income from sources outside the United States (even if you may exclude part or all of it). Do not include social security benefits unless you are married filing a separate return and you lived with your spouse at any time during 2013.
*** If you did not live with your spouse at the end of 2013 (or on the date your spouse died) and your gross income was at least $3,800, you must file a return regardless of your age.

2. Filing Status

Your filing status depends on whether you are single or married and on your family situation. Your filing status is determined on the last day of your tax year, which is December 31 for most taxpayers.

3. Age

If you are 65 or older at the end of the year, you generally can have a higher amount of gross income than other taxpayers before you must file. (see "Table" above) You are considered 65 on the day before your 65th birthday. For example, if your 65th birthday is on January 1, 2014, you are considered 65 for 2013.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified tax attorney to help you navigate
your federal and/or state tax issues.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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