Do I have to File a Tax Return?

Posted By: J. Vincent Perryman on 01/05/2011

The start of the new year we are just a few months from the April 15th tax deadline and this time of year I get many clients asking if they must file a federal income tax return. Generally, you must file a federal income tax return if your income is above a certain level; which varies depending on your filing status, age and the type of income you receive. For example, if you are filing as a single individual the income threshold is around $9000.00, but it also depends on whether you are self employed or claimed as a dependent on another taxpayer's return. While complicated because of the many factors involved, you can use resources set up by the IRS to begin to answer the question.

First check the Individuals section of the IRS website at or consult the instructions for Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ for specific details that may help you determine if you need to file a tax return with the IRS this year. You can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant available on the IRS website to determine if you need to file a tax return. The ITA tool is a tax law resource that takes you through a series of questions and provides you with responses to tax law questions. Finally I would strongly urge you to contact a tax professional such as a CPA or Tax Attorney to make certain of your filing requirements.

Additionally, there are some instances when you may want to file a tax return even though you are not required to do so. Even if you don’t have to file, here are seven reasons why you may want to:

  1. Federal Income Tax Withheld  You should file to get money back if Federal Income Tax was withheld from your pay, you made estimated tax payments, or had a prior year overpayment applied to this year’s tax.
  2. Making Work Pay Credit  You may be able to take this credit if you had earned income from work. The maximum credit for a married couple filing a joint return is $800 and $400 for other taxpayers.
  3. Earned Income Tax Credit  You may qualify for EITC if you worked, but did not earn a lot of money.EITC is a refundable tax credit; which means you could qualify for a tax refund.
  4. Additional Child Tax Credit  This refundable credit may be available to you if you have at least one qualifying child and you did not get the full amount of the Child Tax Credit.
  5. American Opportunity Credit  The maximum credit per student is $2,500 and the first four years of postsecondary education qualify.
  6. First-Time Homebuyer Credit  The credit is a maximum of $8,000 or $4,000 if your filing status is married filing separately. To qualify for the credit, taxpayers must have bought – or entered into a binding contract to buy – a principal residence located in the United States on or before April 30, 2010. If you entered into a binding contract by April 30, 2010, you must have closed on the home on or before September 30, 2010. If you bought a home as your principle residence in 2010, you may be able to qualify and claim the credit even if you already owned a home. In this case, the maximum credit for long-time residents is $6,500, or $3,250 if your filing status is married filing separately.
  7. Health Coverage Tax Credit  Certain individuals, who are receiving Trade Adjustment Assistance, Reemployment Trade Adjustment Assistance, or pension benefit payments from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, may be eligible for a Health Coverage Tax Credit worth 80 percent of monthly health insurance premiums when you file your 2010 tax return.

For more information about filing requirements and your eligibility to receive tax credits, visit or contact a tax professional such as a CPA or Tax Attorney. 

The IRS has also posted the following YouTube Videos to help:

Do I Have To File A Tax Return?  English | ASL

J. Vincent Perryman, Esq., Tax LL.M.
Law Offices of J. Vincent Perryman