Who Must Submit A Tax Return

Filing your tax return can feel daunting, but understanding who is required to submit one can make the process much clearer. In this article, we will explore the criteria that determine who must file a tax return. Whether you’re a working professional, a freelancer, or a business owner, knowing if you’re obligated to file can help you avoid any potential penalties. So, let’s dive into the world of taxes and find out if you’re on the list of those who need to submit a tax return.


When it comes to filing a tax return, individuals must consider their filing status and age requirement. Your filing status will determine how your income is taxed and what deductions and credits you may be eligible for. The options for filing status include single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, and qualifying widow or widower with a dependent child. Make sure to choose the appropriate filing status that reflects your current marital and family situation.

In addition to filing status, your age also plays a role in determining whether you need to file a tax return. Generally, if you are under 65 years old and your income exceeds the filing threshold, you are required to file a tax return. However, if you are 65 or older, the threshold is slightly higher. Keep in mind that these thresholds can change each year, so it’s important to check the latest guidelines from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to ensure you meet the requirements.

Self-employed Individuals

Self-employed individuals have unique tax obligations compared to those who are employed by a company. Two key factors to consider are the income threshold and the type of business you operate. As a self-employed individual, you must report your income and expenses on Schedule C of your tax return. If your net profit exceeds a certain threshold, you are required to file a tax return. This threshold may vary depending on several factors, such as your filing status and age.

The type of business you run also affects your tax obligations. For example, a sole proprietorship and a single-member Limited Liability Company (LLC) are taxed differently than a partnership or a corporation. It’s important to consult with a tax professional or refer to the IRS guidelines to ensure you are correctly reporting and paying taxes on your self-employment income.

Employed Individuals

If you are an employed individual, your employer usually withholds taxes from your paycheck based on the information you provided on your Form W-4. However, it is still important to determine whether you need to file a tax return based on your income. The income threshold varies depending on your filing status and age, similar to self-employed individuals. If your income exceeds the threshold, you are required to file a tax return even if your employer withholds taxes on your behalf.

Additionally, the number of withholding allowances you claim on your Form W-4 can impact the amount of taxes withheld from your paycheck. It’s essential to review your withholding periodically, especially if significant life events occur, such as getting married, having a child, or experiencing a change in your financial situation. By properly adjusting your withholding allowances, you can avoid unexpected tax bills or large refunds.


Dependents have their own set of rules when it comes to filing a tax return. As a dependent, your filing status is generally determined based on your relationship to the person claiming you as a dependent. If someone can claim you as a dependent, your filing status may be “dependent” or “qualifying child.” However, there are certain cases where dependents may need to file their own tax return, such as if their unearned income exceeds a specific threshold or if they have self-employment income.

The income threshold for dependents is typically lower than for individuals who are not dependents. The threshold can vary each year, so it’s crucial to stay informed about the current guidelines. If you are a dependent, it’s a good idea to consult with a tax professional or review the IRS guidelines to ensure you understand your specific filing requirements.

Married Couples

Married couples have various options for filing their tax return, and selecting the appropriate filing status is essential. The most common filing statuses for married couples are “married filing jointly” and “married filing separately.” In most cases, filing jointly offers more tax benefits and deductions. However, there may be specific circumstances where it makes sense to file separately, such as when one spouse has significant itemized deductions or when concerns about the other spouse’s financial actions arise.

The combined income of married couples is a crucial element in determining their tax obligations. Generally, the higher the combined income, the greater the tax liability. However, the tax brackets and deductions available to married couples can differ from those for individual filers. It’s important to evaluate your income and consult with a tax professional to determine the most advantageous filing status and strategies for your specific situation.

Business Entities

Different types of business entities have distinct tax responsibilities. It’s important to understand the specific requirements for corporate entities, partnerships, and S corporations.

Corporate entities, such as C corporations, are taxed separately from their owners. They have their own tax return, Form 1120, and are subject to corporate income tax rates. Shareholders of C corporations may also be taxed on dividends received from the corporation.

Partnerships are not taxed as separate entities. Instead, the income and losses flow through to the partners, who report them on their individual tax returns. Partnerships must file an information return, Form 1065, to report their income, deductions, and other relevant information.

S corporations, also known as “small business corporations,” are a unique type of corporation that provides liability protection to shareholders while allowing them to be taxed similarly to a partnership. S corporations must file a tax return, Form 1120S, and issue K-1 forms to shareholders, who report their share of income, deductions, and credits on their individual tax returns.

Understanding the tax requirements for your specific business entity is crucial to ensure compliance and to maximize tax benefits.

Foreign Nationals

Foreign nationals residing in the United States have specific rules regarding their tax obligations. One of the key factors to consider is their residency status. Residency is determined by the substantial presence test, which considers the number of days an individual spends in the United States over a three-year period. Foreign nationals who meet the substantial presence test are considered resident aliens for tax purposes.

The type of income earned by foreign nationals also impacts their tax obligations. Most foreign nationals are subject to the same tax rules as U.S. citizens on their U.S.-sourced income. However, they may be eligible for certain tax treaty benefits or exclusions that reduce their taxable income or exempt specific types of income. Nonresident aliens, on the other hand, are generally taxed only on their U.S.-sourced income and may be subject to different rates and limitations.

If you are a foreign national, it is essential to understand your residency status and the specific tax rules that apply to you. Consulting with a tax professional or reviewing the IRS guidelines will help you navigate your tax obligations effectively.


Retirees often have different sources of income than individuals who are still actively employed. Two important considerations for retirees are pension income and Social Security benefits.

Pension income received during retirement may be partially or fully taxable, depending on the type of pension plan and the contributions made throughout your working years. Taxes on pension income are generally determined by the amount of your total annual income and your filing status. Some pension income may be tax-free, such as that received from certain military retirement plans or disability pensions.

Social Security benefits may also be subject to taxation, depending on your total income and filing status. A portion of your Social Security benefits may be taxable if your combined income (including Social Security benefits, wages, and other taxable income) exceeds a certain threshold. The IRS provides a worksheet to determine the taxable portion of your benefits.

Retirees should carefully consider their various sources of income and consult with a tax professional to ensure they understand the tax implications and any potential deductions or credits they may be eligible for.

Additional Factors

Several additional factors can influence whether you need to file a tax return. Homeownership, inheritance, and investment income are a few examples of these factors.

Homeownership can affect your tax obligations in various ways. For example, you may be eligible for mortgage interest deductions, real estate tax deductions, or certain credits for energy-efficient home improvements. These deductions and credits can lower your overall tax liability or even result in a refund.

Inheritance can also have tax implications. In most cases, inherited assets are not subject to federal income tax. However, if you receive income from inherited assets, such as rental income or interest on inherited investments, you may need to include that income on your tax return.

Investment income from sources such as stocks, bonds, or mutual funds is generally taxable. The tax treatment of investment income depends on the type of investment, the holding period, and any applicable deductions or credits.

Considering these additional factors and understanding their impact on your tax return will ensure you meet your tax obligations and take advantage of any potential tax benefits.


While tax obligations apply to most individuals and entities, there are some exceptions to the general rules. Two common exceptions are combat zone service and low-income individuals.

Individuals serving in a combat zone or performing qualified hazardous duty are granted an extension of time to file their tax returns. This extension generally lasts for at least 180 days after leaving the combat zone. Additionally, they may be eligible for additional exclusions and deductions related to their service.

Low-income individuals may be exempt from filing a tax return if their income falls below certain thresholds. These thresholds can vary each year, and it’s essential to review the IRS guidelines to determine whether you qualify for an exemption. Even if you are not required to file a tax return, you may still choose to do so to claim any applicable tax credits or refunds.

Understanding these exceptions can provide relief for individuals facing unique circumstances. Consulting with a tax professional or reviewing the IRS guidelines will help you determine whether you qualify for any exceptions to filing a tax return.


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