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How much do you have to make to file taxes?

Key takeaways

  • You generally do not have to file a tax return if your gross income (earned and unearned income but not the nontaxable component of Social Security benefits) is less than the standard deduction for your filing status.
  • Dependents, including minor children, may have to file taxes if they make more than a certain amount of unearned or earned income.
  • Social Security benefits may be taxable depending on how much other income you receive.
  • Even if your income falls below the threshold for filing, you still may be required to file or choose to do so to get a refund.

While filing a federal income tax return is a requirement for most American citizens and permanent residents working in the US, if you earn less than a certain amount of money, you may not have to file a federal tax return. In addition to your income level, other factors that may affect whether you have to file taxes include where the money came from, your filing status, and your dependency status. We've compiled guidance to help you determine if you need to file taxes for tax year 2022. If you have more questions about your tax situation, consult a tax advisor.

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How much do you have to make to file taxes?

Whether you have to file taxes for a given tax year depends on how much you earned that year. For tax year 2022, gross incomes (all income you receive that isn't tax-exempt with special rules for Social Security benefits) are shown in the table below. If these numbers look familiar, it's because they're the same as the standard deduction—the default minimum amount that all tax filers can choose to claim on their tax return. ​​Note that filers who are blind get an additional standard deduction of $1,400 (if married filing jointly or separately) or $1,750 (if filing as single or head of household) in tax year 2022. However, if someone else can claim you as a dependent, there are lower income thresholds for filing taxes.

Filing status Age at the end of 2022 File if your gross income was at least:
Single under 65 $12,950
65 and over $14,700
Head of household under 65 $19,400
​65 and over $21,150
Married, filing jointly under 65 (both spouses) $25,900
​​​under 65 (one spouse) $27,300
​​65 and ​over 65 (both spouses) $28,700
Married, filing separately any age $5
Qualifying surviving spouse under 65 $25,900
65 and ​over $27,300

Source: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/who-needs-to-file-a-tax-return

How much do dependents have to make to file taxes?

Children under the age of 19, students under the age of 24, permanently disabled adult children, and relatives who are supported by and/or live with taxpayers may all be claimed as dependents. If a dependent has income, the IRS may require a tax return from them. (And keep in mind that if someone earns a gross income of more than $4,400, they typically can't be claimed as a dependent, unless they are a qualifying child.)

Dependents do not compare their income to the standard deduction to determine if they have to file taxes. Instead, they must compare their income to the following thresholds: ​​

​Single dependents must file taxes if any of the following are true. (Note: Those who are blind may add $1,750 to their income threshold.)

You are under 65 You are 65 and over
Your unearned income (i.e., income from investments) is greater than: $1,150 $2,900
Your earned income (i.e., income from a job) is greater than: $12,950 $14,700
Your total gross income (i.e., unearned income plus earned income) is more than the larger of:
  • $1,150 or
  • Your earned income up to $12,550 (+$400)
  • $2,550 or
  • Your earned income up to $12,550 (+$1,800)

If you are married and file jointly and someone claims you as their dependent, you must file taxes if any of the following is true. (Note: Those who are blind may add $1,750 to their income threshold.)

You are under 65 You are 65 and over
Your unearned income is greater than: $1,150 $2,550
Your earned income is greater than: $12,950 $14,350
Your gross income (unearned income plus earned income) is more than the greater of:
  • $1,150 or
  • Your earned income up to $12,550 (+$400)
  • $2,550 or
  • Your earned income up to $12,550 (+$1,800)

 The above tables are sourced from IRS Pub. 501: https://www.irs.gov/publications/p501

If you are claimed as someone's dependent and are married and filing separately, you must file taxes if your gross income was at least $5 and your spouse itemizes their deductions. Again, people who are blind can claim an additional standard deduction of $1,750 (single dependent) or $1,400 (married dependent).

Is Social Security taxable?

The above rules generally assume that your income is either earned through a job or unearned income from investments. But if Social Security is your only source of income, you generally do not need to file taxes since it is unlikely the portion of your benefits that are taxed will surpass the thresholds previously discussed.

If, however, you receive other income, benefits may be subject to taxation. The higher your non-Social Security income, the more likely you are to pay taxes on your Social Security benefits. Note: The percentages used below indicate the percentage of your Social Security income that may be taxed. The percentage of your Social Security income that is taxable is taxed at normal income tax rates.

To determine if and how much of your benefits are taxable, calculate what the Social Security Administration calls your combined income:

Combined income = ½ of your annual Social Security benefits + adjusted gross income (AGI) + tax-exempt interest

Reminder: Your AGI is how much income you earned minus adjustments to income.

Hypothetical example: Joint filing spouses receive $24,000 per year in Social Security benefits and have an AGI of $29,000 and $1,000 in tax-exempt interest. Their combined income would be $12,000 (½ of $24,000) + $29,000 + $1,000, or $42,000. This number is then compared to an upper and lower base rate:

Lower base rate Upper base rate
Single $25,000 $34,000
Married, filing jointly $32,000 $44,000
  • If your combined income falls below the lower base rate for your filing status, you owe no taxes on your Social Security benefits.
  • If your combined income is between the lower and upper base rate, you may owe taxes on up to 50% of your Social Security benefits.
  • If your combined income is above the upper base rate, you may owe taxes on up to 85% of your Social Security benefits.

To continue our example from above, that means the couple with a combined income of $42,000 may owe taxes on up to 50% of their Social Security benefits if they are filing jointly at their marginal income tax rate.

As far as state taxes, 39 states don't tax Social Security benefits. 

What to keep in mind when deciding if you should file taxes

There are several reasons why filing may be the right choice—either because you are required to file or because you would benefit by doing so. The good news is that low-income taxpayers are generally eligible to file taxes for free via IRS Free File. For more about your options, check out our guide to tax filing.

Reasons you might be required to file a tax return

Even if your income is below the minimum threshold for filing taxes, you may still be required to file a tax return if any of the following apply to you:

  • You earned at least $400 in self-employment income
  • You received unemployment income
  • You owe additional taxes, such as:
    • On early distributions from or excess contributions to a tax-advantaged retirement account such as a 401(k) or IRA
    • Alternative minimum tax, a minimum percentage of tax high-income filers must pay
    • Household employment taxes for someone working within your household
    • Social Security or Medicare tax on other income, e.g., tips you either didn't report to your employer, or that your employer did not withhold taxes from
    • Recapture taxes (such as having to repay the 2008 First-Time Homebuyer Credit). For example, if you claimed depreciation deductions on a property in previous years then sell it for a profit, the IRS will want that money back.
  • You earned more than $108.28 from a tax-exempt church or church-controlled institution
  • You received certain types of distributions from a health savings account or a medical savings account
  • You received advance payments of the Premium Tax Credit

Reasons you might want to file taxes, even if you don't have to

There are also a number of reasons why you may choose to file your taxes even if your income falls below the threshold and you otherwise are not required to file. For instance, you might be eligible for a refund if:

Check out our full guide to tax credits and deductions and try out the IRS's Do I Need to File a Tax Return? feature. If you're due a refund, be sure to file within 3 years. Otherwise, the US Treasury gets to keep it.

And even if you aren't due a refund, you may still want to file your tax return to make sure the IRS has an accurate record of your earnings. Among other things, this is used to determine how much Social Security you may be eligible for later.

Do I have to file state or local taxes?

If you file a federal return, you may also have to file a state return or even multiple returns if you lived and/or worked in more than 1 state. However, 7 states (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming) do not collect income tax, New Hampshire only taxes dividend and interest income, and Washington only taxes capital gains of high earners. Consult your state's tax authorities for filing requirements. Any other local tax requirements may vary based on where you live, so be sure to check with the proper agency.

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