Frequently Asked Questions

Who must file a tax return?

You are required to file a federal income tax return if your income is above a certain level. That level varies, depending on your filing status, your age and the kind of income you’re reporting. See the table below for your situation.

If your filling status is...
AND at the end of 2019 you were...
THEN file a return if your gross
income was at least
Under 65
65 or older
Married filing jointly
Under 65 (both spouses)
65 or older (one spouse)
65 or older (both spouses)
Married filing separately
Any age
Head of household
Under 65
65 or older
Qualifying widow(er)
Under 65
65 or older

Others Who Must File
You must file a tax return if any of the following apply:

  • You owe any taxes, such as alternative minimum tax, taxes on a retirement plan distribution, household employment taxes, and Social Security and Medicare taxes that were not withheld from income.
  • You received a distribution from a health savings account, Archer MSA, or Medicare Advantage MSA.
  • You had at least $400 in self-employment income.
  • You earned $108.28 or more from a church or qualified church-controlled organization that is exempt from employer Social Security and Medicare taxes.
  • You received an advance payment of the Premium Tax Credit for health insurance bought from a health insurance marketplace. You should receive Form 1095-A with the amount of the advance payments.
  • Advance payments of the health coverage tax credit were made for you, your spouse, or a dependent. You should receive Form 1099-H with the amount of the advance payments.

I am a senior collecting Social Security benefits, am I required to file a tax return?

If your only income is from Social Security benefits, they are not taxable, and you don’t need to file a tax return. However, if you have income from other sources, there may be taxes on the total amount. To find if your benefits may be taxable, start with what’s called the base amount for your filing status, which is:

  • $25,000 if you are single, head of household, or a qualifying widow(er)
  • $25,000 if you are married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse for the entire year
  • $32,000 if you are married filing jointly
  • $0 if you are married filing separately and live with your spouse at any time during the tax year

To find out whether your Social Security benefits are taxable, divide your total Social Security benefit amount by 2, then add all your other income (including any tax-exempt interest). Compare the result to the base amount for your filing status. If your result is higher than the base amount for your filing status, you’ll probably be taxed on the total. If you’re married and file a joint return, both spouses must combine their incomes and Social Security benefits when figuring taxable amounts. This applies even if the spouse did not have any benefits.

Back to Top