And speaking of income, we get to the main reason behind our tax system. For filing purposes, the IRS considers your gross income; that is, all income you received in the form of money (both wages and self-employment payments), goods, property and services.
If you make over a certain level of gross income, you will have to file a tax return. Just how much money it takes to reach that filing-amount level is adjusted each year by the IRS. The amounts also depend upon the age and filing status data outlined above.
Basically, married couples filing jointly can earn more money than single filers before they have to file a tax return.
Because each taxpayer is unique, you may find that your filing situation doesn't fit easily into the standard categories of who has to file. In that case, check out the IRS's FAQ
page on filing requirements.
Filing when you don't have to
The good news after reading all of this: You only need to file one federal income tax return for the year, regardless of how many jobs you had, how many W-2 forms you received or how many states you lived in during the year.
For some, there's even better news. Even if you don't make enough money for the IRS to demand a return, it sometimes pays to send one in. This is the case for individuals who may be eligible for certain tax credits that could mean money back from the IRS.
The same is true if you had a job and didn't meet the earnings filing threshold, but your employer withheld payroll taxes. The only way you can get the money, whether from credits or overpaid withholding, is to file a tax return.