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Who Has to File IRS Form 1040?

Posted by on March 7, 2012
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Who Has to File IRS Form 1040?

Find out if you are required to file a 2011 federal tax return

All those with incomes above a certain level have to file an income tax return, either a Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ.

Every year the numbers change, as they are adjusted for inflation. For 2011 taxes, the income thresholds that determine whether or not you need to file are as follows:

Filing Status


Income Threshold


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) with Dependent Child

under 65

65 or older



If your income is below the threshold listed in the right-hand column, you are not legally obligated to file a return.

But in certain situations it may be financially beneficial for you to file even if you don’t have to because you could get a refund.

The first situation in which you probably want to file no matter how little money you made is if federal income tax was withheld from your paychecks. Filing will most likely get you some of this money back.

The American Opportunity Credit could give eligible students a tax credit up to $2,500.

For some low-income taxpayers, these credits could actually result in a refund of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Dependents may be required to file a tax return too. A dependent has to file a return if their

  • unearned income was more than $950,
  • earned income was more than $5,800, or
  • gross income was more than the larger of $950, or their earned income (up to $5,500) plus $300

Slightly different eligibility rules apply for dependents who are married as well as dependents who are 65 or older or blind.

If it is at all unclear whether or not you have to file, consult the 1040 Instructions, specifically Charts A, B, and C. They should be able to determine who exactly is required to file. But remember: you should always check to see if you are due a refund first.

If it turns out you do need to file, head over to the PriorTax homepage and get started on your return today.

Photo via 401(K) 2012 on Flickr.

4 Responses to “Who Has to File IRS Form 1040?”

  1. ron says:

    I only made a small amount of earned income $5000.00 my unemployment was $12000.00 when filing taxes can I use both as earned income to get the earned income tax credit after figuring out my adjusted gross income.

  2. Ruby P Hood says:

    I am applying for a Loan with Freedom Mortgage And I have not filled a Tax return since my husband died in 1999 . I have fully depended on SS for my living I do pay my Medicare insurance it is taking out of my check each month.How do I get some thing from IRS to show I have not filled taxes.

    • admin says:

      You can request an Verification of Non‐Filing Letter from the IRS. This can be done online at or by phone or mail.

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