2021 Federal Income Tax Filing Requirements
The determination of whether you are required to file a federal individual income tax return is based on:
- your federal tax filing status;
- your gross income;
- whether you are claimed as a dependent on another individual’s income tax return; and
- whether you received a specific credit or owe a tax liability (see Additional Filing Requirements below).
General Filing Requirements when an individual is NOT claimed as a dependent on another individual’s income tax return
|Filing Status||Gross Income1 is at least|
|Married filing jointly||$25,100|
|Married filing separately2||$5|
|Head of household||$18,800|
1 Gross income generally means all income that you received in the form of money, goods, property, and services that is not exempt from tax, including any income from outside of the United States or from the sale of your main home (even if you may exclude all or part of it). Please note that certain social security benefits may be excluded from the definition of gross income.
2 If you did not live with your spouse at the end of 2021 (or on the date your spouse died) and your gross income was at least $5, you must file a return regardless of your age.
For items of gross income generally pertaining to students, please refer to IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education, Chapter 1, Scholarships, Fellowships, Grants and Tuition Reductions and the IRS web page for students, Student’s Page - Higher Education.
If you will be claimed as a dependent on another individual’s tax return, please refer to the Federal Form 1040 Instructions for filing requirements and worksheet.
In addition to the above guidelines, you must file a tax return if you meet other very specific criteria see ‘Additional Filing Requirements’ below for more information.
Additional Filing Requirements
In addition to the guidelines based on income, you must file a return if any of the following applies for 2021:
- You owe recapture taxes or the alternative minimum tax;
- You owe taxes, such as social security or Medicare, on tips not reported to your employer or on wages you received from an employer who did not withhold these taxes;
- You owe write in taxes such as social security, Medicare or RRTA tax on tips reported to your employer or on group term life insurance or additional tax on a health savings account;
- You had net earnings from self employment of at least $400;
- You had wages of $108.28 or more from a church or qualified church-controlled organization that is exempt from employer social security and Medicare taxes;
- You owe additional tax on a qualified plan, including an individual retirement account (IRA), or other tax favored account (Note: If you are filing a return only because you owe this tax, you can file Form 5329 by itself);
- You owe household employment taxes (Note: If you are filing a return only because you owe this tax, you can file Schedule H by itself);
- You (or your spouse, if filing jointly) received HSA, Archer MSA or Medicare Advantage MSA distributions
- Advance payments of the premium tax credit were made for you, your spouse, or a dependent who enrolled in coverage through the Marketplace.
- Advance payments of the health coverage tax credit were made for you, your spouse, or a dependent.
- You are required to include amounts in income under section 965 or you have a net tax liability under section 965 that you are paying in installments under section 965(h) or deferred by making an election under section 965(i).
Note: Even if you do not have to file, you should file a tax return if you can get money back. For example, you should file if one of the following applies:
- You had income tax withheld from your pay;
- You made estimated tax payments for the year or had any of your overpayment for last year applied to this year’s estimated tax;
- You qualify for the earned income tax credit;
- You qualify for the additional child tax credit;
- You qualify for the refundable American opportunity educational credit; or
- You qualify for the credit for federal tax on fuels.
- You qualify for the premium tax credit.
- You qualify for the health coverage tax credit.
- You qualify for the recovery rebate tax credit.
- You qualify for credits for sick and family leave.