Must I, or Should I, File a Tax Return?

1 April 2016
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The question many taxpayers ask during this time of the year is, “Must I file a tax return?” or “Should I file a tax return? These questions are far more complicated than people believe. To fully understand, we need to consider that there are times when individuals are REQUIRED to file a tax return, and then there are times when it is to individuals’ BENEFIT to file a return even if they are not required to file.

When individuals are required to file:

Generally, individuals are required to file a return if their income exceeds their filing threshold, as shown in the table below. The filing thresholds are the sum of the standard deduction for individual(s) and the personal exemption for the taxpayer and spouse (if any).

Taxpayers are required to file if they have net self-employment income in excess of $400, since they are required to pay self-employment taxes (the equivalent to payroll taxes for an employee) when their net self-employment income exceeds $400.

Taxpayers must also file when they are required to repay a credit or benefit. For example, taxpayers who underestimated their income when signing up for health insurance on a government health insurance marketplace and received a higher advance premium tax credit than they were entitled to are required to repay part of it.

Filing is also required when a taxpayer owes a penalty, even though the taxpayer’s income is below the filing threshold. This can occur, for example, when a taxpayer has an IRA 10% early withdrawal penalty or the 50% penalty for not taking a required IRA distribution.

 

2015 – Filing Thresholds

Filing Status                                Age                             Threshold

Single                                    Under Age 65                      $10,300

Age 65 or Older                       11,850

Married Filing Jointly   Both Spouses Under 65         $20,600

One Spouse 65 or Older           21,850

Both Spouses 65 or Older         23,100

Married Filing Separate          Any Age                              4,000

Head of Household             Under 65                            $13,250

65 or Older                          $14,800

Qualifying Widow(er)            Under 65                            $16,600

with Dependent Child          65 or Older                          $17,850

 

Consequences of Not Filing – If you have been procrastinating about filing your 2015 tax return or have other prior year returns that have not been filed, you should consider the consequences if you are REQUIRED file. The April 18 due date for the 2015 returns is just around the corner.

Failing to file a return or filing late can be costly. If taxes are owed, a delay in filing may result in penalty and interest charges that could substantially increase your tax bill. The late filing and payment penalties are a combined 5% per month (25% maximum) of the balance due.

April 18, 2016 is also the last day to file a 2012 return and be able to claim any refund you are entitled to.

Even if you expect to have a tax liability and cannot pay all the tax due, you should file your tax return by the due date to minimize penalties.

When it is beneficial for individuals to file – There are a number of benefits available when filing a tax return that can produce refunds even for a taxpayer who is not required to file:

Withholding refund – A substantial number of taxpayers fail to file their returns even when the tax they owe is less than their prepayments, such as payroll withholding, estimates, or a prior overpayment. The only way to recover the excess is to file a return.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – If you worked and did not make a lot of money, you may qualify for the EITC. The EITC is a refundable tax credit, which means you could qualify for a tax refund. The refund could be as high as several thousand dollars even when you are not required to file.

Additional Child Tax Credit – This refundable credit may be available to you if you have at least one qualifying child.

American Opportunity Credit – The maximum credit per student is $2,500, and the first four years of postsecondary education qualify. Up to 40% of that credit is refundable when you have no tax liability and are not required to file.

Premium Tax Credit – Lower-income families are entitled to a refundable tax credit to supplement the cost of health insurance purchased through a government health insurance marketplace. To the extent the credit is greater than the supplement provided by the marketplace, it is refundable even if there is no other reason to file.

DON’T PROCRASTINATE! There is a three-year statute of limitations on refunds, and after it runs out, any refund due is forfeited. The statute is three years from the due date of the tax return. So the refund period expires for 2015 returns, which are due in April of 2016, on April 15, 2019.

For more information about filing requirements and your eligibility to receive tax credits, please contact Dagley & Co.