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If your parent (or someone else) can claim you as a dependent, use the information below to determine if you must file a tax return. Keep in mind that if either federal or state taxes were withheld from your paycheck, only by filing a return can you receive a refund for any amounts due back to you. Refer to the IRS Form 1040 Instructions and IRS Publication 501 for additional information. You may also wish to utilize the IRS Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA) topic Do I need to file a tax return?

Unearned income includes taxable interest, ordinary dividends, and capital gain distributions. It also includes unemployment compensation, taxable social security benefits, pensions, annuities, and distributions of unearned income from a trust. Earned income includes salaries, wages, tips, professional fees, and taxable scholarship and fellowship grants. Gross income is the total of your unearned and earned income.

If your gross income was $4,150 or more, you usually cannot be claimed as a dependent unless you are a qualifying child. For details, see Dependents on page 11 of IRS Publication 501.

Single Dependents

Were you either age 65 or older or blind? If not, then you must file a return if any of the following apply:

  • Your unearned income was over $1,050.
  • Your earned income was over $12,000.
  • Your gross income was more than the larger of
    • $1,050, or
    • Your earned income (up to $11,650) plus $350.

If you were blind or age 65 or over, you must file a return if any of the following apply:

  • Your unearned income was over $2,650 ($4,250 if 65 or older and blind)
  • Your earned income was over $13,600 ($15,200 if 65 or older and blind)
  • Your gross income was more than the larger of
    • $2,650 ($4,250 if 65 or older and blind), or
    • Your earned income (up to $11,650) plus $1,950 ($3,550 if 65 or older and blind)

Married Dependents

Were you either age 65 or older or blind?

No. You must file a return if any of the following apply:

  • Your gross income was at least $5 and your spouse files a separate return and itemizes deductions.
  • Your unearned income was over $1,050.
  • Your earned income was more than $12,000.
  • Your gross income was more than the larger of
    • $1,050, or
    • Your earned income (up to $11,650), plus $350.

If you were blind or age 65 or older then you must file a return if any of the following apply:

  • Your gross income was at least $5 and your spouse files a separate return and itemizes deductions.
  • Your unearned income was more than $2,350 ($3,650 if 65 or older and blind).
  • Your earned income was more than $13,300 ($14,600 if 65 or older and blind).
  • Your gross income was more than the larger of
    • $2,350 ($3,650 if 65 or older and blind), or
    • Your earned income (up to $11,650) plus $1,650 ($2,950 if 65 or older and blind).

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