In­come thresh­olds that re­quire fil­ing of U.S. tax re­turns

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - HEALTH - BY JIM MILLER Jim Miller is ed­i­tor of the Savvy Se­nior. Send your se­nior ques­tions to Savvy Se­nior, P.O. Box 5443, Nor­man, OK 73070, or visit www.savvy­se­nior.org.

QUES­TION: What are the IRS fil­ing re­quire­ments for re­tirees this tax sea­son? My in­come dropped way down when I re­tired last year, so I’m won­der­ing if I need to file a re­turn this year.

AN­SWER: Whether you are re­quired to file a tax re­turn this year de­pends on sev­eral fac­tors: how much you earned in 2018, the source of that in­come, your age and your fil­ing sta­tus.

Here’s a look at this sea­son’s IRS fil­ing re­quire­ment thresh­olds. For most peo­ple, it’s pretty straight­for­ward. If your gross in­come — which in­cludes all tax­able in­come, not count­ing your So­cial Se­cu­rity ben­e­fits, un­less you are mar­ried and fil­ing sep­a­rately — was be­low the thresh­old for your fil­ing sta­tus and age, you may not have to file. But if it’s over, you will.

Sin­gle: $12,000 ($13,600 if you’re 65 or older by Jan. 1, 2019).

Mar­ried fil­ing jointly: $24,000 ($25,300 if you or your spouse is 65 or older; or $26,600 if you’re both over 65).

Mar­ried fil­ing sep­a­rately: $5 at any age. Head of house­hold: $18,000 ($19,600 if age 65 or older).

Qual­i­fy­ing widow(er) with de­pen­dent child: $24,000 ($25,300 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 for a free copy of the “Tax Guide for Se­niors” (pub­li­ca­tion 554) or see IRS.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p554.pdf.

There are, how­ever, some other fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tions that can re­quire you to file a tax re­turn, even if your gross in­come falls be­low the IRS fil­ing re­quire­ments. For ex­am­ple, if you earned more than $400 from self-em­ploy­ment in 2018, owe any spe­cial taxes like an al­ter­na­tive min­i­mum tax, or get premium tax cred­its be­cause you, your spouse or a de­pen­dent is en­rolled in a Health In­sur­ance Mar­ket­place (Oba­macare) plan, you’ll need to file.

You’ll also need to file if you’re re­ceiv­ing So­cial Se­cu­rity ben­e­fits, and one-half of your ben­e­fits plus your other gross in­come and any tax-ex­empt in­ter­est ex­ceed $25,000, or $32,000 if you’re mar­ried and fil­ing jointly.

The IRS of­fers a tax as­sis­tant tool on its 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. It takes less than 15 min­utes to com­plete.

You can ac­cess this tool at IRS.gov/fil­ing — click on “Do I Need to File?” Or you can get as­sis­tance over the phone by call­ing the IRS helpline at (800) 829-1040. You can also get face-to-face help at a Tax­payer As­sis­tance Cen­ter. See IRS.gov/lo­cal­con­tacts or call (800) 829-1040 to lo­cate a cen­ter near you.

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. For links to state tax agen­cies, see Tax­ad­min. org/state-tax-agen­cies.

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 pro­gram. Spon­sored by the IRS, TEC pro­vides free tax prepa­ra­tion and coun­sel­ing to mid­dle- and low-in­come tax­pay­ers, age 60 and older. Call (800) 906-9887 or visit IRS.trea­sury.gov/ free­tax­prep to lo­cate a ser­vice near you.

Also check with AARP, a par­tic­i­pant in the TCE pro­gram that pro­vides free tax prepa­ra­tion at around 5,000 sites na­tion­wide. To lo­cate an AARP Tax-Aide site, call (888) 227-7669 or visit AARP.org/find­tax­help. You don’t have to be an AARP mem­ber to use this ser­vice.

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