IRS Pub. 17, Your Federal Income Tax
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 for any of the following categories that apply
- Individuals in general (There are special rules for surviving spouses,
executors, administrators, or legal representatives; U.S. citizens living
outside the United States; residents of Puerto Rico; and individuals with
income from U.S. possessions.).
- Self-Employed Persons.
The filing requirements for each category are explained in this chapter.
The filing requirements apply even if you do not owe tax.
Even if you do not have to file a return, it may be to your advantage
to do so. See Who Should File, later.
One return. File only one federal income tax return for the
year regardless of how many jobs you had, how many Forms W-2 you received,
or how many states you lived in during the year.
If you are a U.S. citizen or resident, whether you must file a return
depends on three factors:
- Your gross income,
- Your filing status, and
- Your age.
To find out whether you must file, see Table 1-1, Table 1-2, and
Table 1-3. Even if no table shows that you must file, you may need
to file to get money back (see Who Should File, later).
Gross income. This includes all income you receive in the form of
money, goods, property, and services that is not exempt from tax. Common
types of income are discussed in the chapters in Part Two of this
Community property. 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
Self-employed individuals. If you are self-employed, your
gross income includes the amount on line 7 of Schedule C (Form 1040), Profit
or Loss From Business, or line 1 of Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040), Net
Profit From Business. See Self-Employed Persons, later, for
more information about your filing requirements.
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.
See chapter 2 for an explanation of each filing
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 1-1. You are considered 65 on the day before
your 65th birthday. For example, if your 65th birthday was on January 1,
1999, you are considered 65 for 1998.
Table 1-1 Filing Requirements for Most Taxpayers
Surviving Spouses, Executors, Administrators, or Legal Representatives
You must file a final return for a decedent (a person who died) if
both of the following are true.
- You are the surviving spouse, executor, administrator, or legal
- The decedent met the filing requirements at the date of death.
For more information on rules for filing a decedent's final return,
see chapter 4.
U.S. Citizens Living Outside the U.S.
If you are a U.S. citizen living outside the United States, you must
file a return if you meet the filing requirements. For information on special
tax rules that may apply to you, get Publication
54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad. It
is available at most U.S. embassies and consulates. Also see How To
Get More Information in the back of this publication.
Residents of Puerto Rico
Generally, if you are a U.S. citizen and a resident of Puerto Rico,
you must file a U.S. income tax return if you meet the filing requirements.
This is in addition to any legal requirement you may have to file an income
tax return for Puerto Rico.
If you are a Puerto Rico resident for the entire year, gross income
does not include income from sources within Puerto Rico, except for amounts
received as an employee of the United States or a United States agency.
If you receive income from Puerto Rican sources that is not subject to
U.S. tax, you must reduce your standard deduction. As a result, the amount
of income you must have before you are required to file a U.S. income tax
return is lower than the applicable amount in Table 1-1 or Table
1-2. See U.S. taxation and its discussion, Standard deduction,
under The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in Publication
570, Tax Guide for Individuals With Income From U.S. Possessions,
for further information.
Individuals With Income From U.S. Possessions
If you had income from Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana
Islands, American Samoa, or the Virgin Islands, special rules may apply
when determining whether you must file a U.S. federal income tax return.
In addition, you may have to file a return with the individual island government.
See Publication 570 for more information.
If you are a dependent (one who meets the dependency tests in chapter
3), see Table 1-2 to find whether you must file a return. You
also must file if your situation is described in Table 1-3.
Table 1-2 Filing Req for Dependents
Responsibility of parent. Generally, a child is responsible for filing
his or her own tax return and for paying any tax on the return. But if
a dependent child who must file an income tax return cannot file it for
any reason, such as age, a parent, guardian, or other legally responsible
person must file it for the child. If the child cannot sign the return,
the parent or guardian must sign the child's name followed by the words
"By (signature), parent (or guardian) for minor child."
Child's earnings. Amounts a child earns by performing services
are his or her gross income. This is true even if under local law the child's
parents have the right to the earnings and may actually have received them.
If the child does not pay the tax due on this income, the parent is liable
for the tax.
Child Under Age 14
If a child's only income is interest and dividends (including Alaska
Permanent Fund dividends) and certain other conditions are met, a parent
can elect to include the child's income on the parent's return. If this
election is made, the child does not have to file a return. See Parent's
Election To Report Child's Interest and Dividends in chapter
You are self-employed if you:
- Carry on a trade or business as a sole proprietor,
- Are an independent contractor,
- Are a member of a partnership, or
- Are in business for yourself in any other way.
Self-employment can include work in addition to your regular full-time
business activities. It also includes certain part-time work that you do
at home or in addition to your regular job.
You must file a return if your gross income is at least as much as
the filing requirement amount for your filing status and age (shown in
Table 1-1). Also, you must file Form 1040 and Schedule SE (Form
1040), Self-Employment Tax, if:
- Your net earnings from self-employment (excluding church employee
income) were $400 or more, or
- You had church employee income of $108.28 or more (see Table
Use Schedule SE (Form 1040) to figure your self-employment tax. Self-employment
tax is comparable to the social security and Medicare tax withheld from
an employee's wages. For more information about this tax, get Publication
533, Self-Employment Tax.
Foreign governments or international organizations. If you
are a U.S. citizen who works in the United States for an international
organization, a foreign government, or a wholly owned instrumentality of
a foreign government, and your employer does not deduct social security
and Medicare taxes from your income, you must include your earnings from
services performed in the United States when figuring your net earnings
Ministers. You must include income from services you performed
as a minister when figuring your net earnings from self-employment, unless
you have requested and received an exemption from self-employment tax.
This also applies to Christian Science practitioners and members of a religious
order who have not taken a vow of poverty. For more information, get Publication
517, Social Security and Other Information for Members of the Clergy
and Religious Workers.
Your status as an alien--resident, nonresident, or dual-status--determines
whether and how you must file an income tax return.
The rules used to determine your alien status are discussed in Publication
519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.
Resident alien. If you are a resident alien for the entire year,
you must file a tax return following the same rules that apply to U.S.
citizens. Use the forms discussed in this publication.
Nonresident alien. If you are a nonresident alien, the rules and
tax forms that apply to you are different from those that apply to U.S.
citizens and resident aliens. See Publication 519 to find out if U.S. income
tax laws apply to you and which forms you should file.
Dual-status taxpayer. If you were a resident alien for part of the
tax year and a nonresident alien for the rest of the year, you are a dual-status
taxpayer. Different rules apply for each part of the year. For information
on dual-status taxpayers, see Publication 519.
Who Should File
Even if you do not have to file, you should file a federal income
tax return to get money back if any of the following conditions apply.
- You had income tax withheld from your pay.
- You qualify for the earned income credit. See chapter
37 for more information.
- You qualify for the additional child tax credit. See chapter
35 for more information.
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