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Tax Filing Requirements

According to the Internal Revenue Service1, every resident of the United States with income from any source must file an income tax return. In the past, the amount of income the taxpayer received was the basis to determine if it would be necessary to file an income tax return. The amount increases every year and remains flexible with each income tax filing.

Federal Income Tax Filing

You are subject to filing an income tax return if you are a citizen or a resident of the United States of America. Residents of Puerto Rico must also file an income tax return in the United States. If a citizen or resident falls into any one of these categories, an income tax return is a requirement:

  • All individual citizens or residents who are subject to filing a return must file such return on or before the filing deadline, currently 15 April of each year
  • Dependents who meet filing requirements, must file an income tax return
  • Children who are less than 19 years of age or full-time students who meet the requirements for their category must also file an income tax return
  • Self-employed persons who earn $400 of income meet the criteria to file a return
  • Aliens must also file an income tax return

Determining Factors

A United States resident or citizen who fits into one of the categories above must also determine the answers to these three factors as they relate to the individual:

  • Amount of gross income
  • Filing status
  • Age on 31 December of the tax year

Even if a taxpayer finds the right category and can answer those three elements, extenuating circumstances could make it difficult to determine if you must file any income tax return. However, if you are eligible for a tax refund, especially from federal tax credits, you must file your taxes to claim your refund.

The Student Situation

There is a “black hole” hidden in the guidelines that most often affects students who work part time and are at the bottom of the earnings ladder. Most students with part time jobs after school or during the summer months have both federal and state taxes withheld. They do not make enough to file a tax return AND many are dependents.

These students are entitled to receive the withheld monies as a tax refund. In order to claim their refund, they must file a tax return. Ordinarily, there would not be a requirement to file at all.

What if ...

What if I live somewhere else? There are US citizens living in other countries around the globe who must file a tax return if they meet any of the requirements stated above. Most embassies or consulates have the official tax guide3 outlining the specific tax rules they should follow.

What if I live in a US Territory or possession? Those citizens with income from Guam, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, US Virgin Islands or American Samoa have special requirements4 to use in determining if they need to file a United States federal income tax return. They may need to file only with the island government where they live.

What if I have a special, normally exempt status? Small groups of people have unique circumstances about reporting income. This includes the small child with an inheritance, employees who work for foreign governments, people working for international organizations, religious leaders5 and members of the clergy. Christian Scientists and members of any religious order not subject to the vow of poverty must report income6 and pay taxes.


  1. 1 Internal Revenue Service: www.irs.gov - Publication 17: Federal Income Tax for Individuals, TY2010.
  2. 2 “File Your State Tax Return With Us” http://www.statetaxreturns.co/ , January 2011.
  3. 3 Internal Revenue Service: www.irs.gov - Publication 54: Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad, TY2010.
  4. 4 Internal Revenue Service: www.irs.gov - Publication 570: Tax Guide for Individuals With Income From U.S. Possessions, TY2010.
  5. 5 Internal Revenue Service: www.irs.gov - Publication 517: Social Security and Other Information for Members of the Clergy and Religious Workers, TY2010.
  6. 6 Internal Revenue Service: www.irs.gov - Publication 334: Tax Guide for Small Business and Individuals Who Use Schedule C or C-EZ, TY2010.

State Income Tax Filing

Taxpayers who live in Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming2 have no requirement to file a state income tax return. One benefit of living in a state that does have this requirement is that taxes you pay are deductible on your Federal Income Tax Return if you file Schedule A. Citizens of the United States living abroad must pay state income taxes if their stateside residence is a state with an income tax filing requirement. Click on the link below to learn more about individual state filing requirements.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 24 January 2012 04:58 )