Dear Savvy Senior,
What are the IRS income tax filing requirements for retirees this tax season? I didn't have to file last year, but I picked up a little income from a part-time job in 2014, and I'm wondering I need to file this year.
Whether or not you are required to file a federal income tax return this year will depend on how much you earned (gross income) -- and the source of that income -- as well as your filing status and your age. Your gross income includes all the income you receive that is not exempt from tax, not counting your Social Security benefits, unless you are married and filing separately.
Here's a rundown of the IRS filing requirements for this tax season. If your 2014 gross income was below the threshold for your age and filing status, you probably won't have to file. But if it's over, you will.
- Single:10,150 (11,700 if you're 65 or older by Jan. 1, 2015).
- Married filing jointly:20,300 (21,500 if you or your spouse is 65 or older; or22,700 if you're both over 65).
- Married filing separately:3,950 at any age.
- Head of household:13,050 (14,600 if age 65 or older).
- Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child:16,350 (17,550 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).
There are, however, some other financial situations that will 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 2014 of $400 or more, or if you owe any special taxes to the IRS such as alternative minimum tax or IRA tax penalties, you'll probably need to file.
To figure this out, the IRS offers a 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.
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.
Tax Prep Assistance
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 (or TCE) program. Sponsored by the IRS, TEC provides free tax preparation and counseling to middle and low-income taxpayers, age 60 and older.
Also check with AARP, a participant in the TCE program that provides free tax preparation at more than 5,000 sites nationwide. You don't have to be an AARP member to use this service.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.