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Gross income is your income from all sources, including earned and unearned income, money, goods, property and services not exempt from taxation. Unearned income is from Social Security or interest, sources that do not require your work. If your gross income is less than $10,750, you may not have to file a federal tax return. The IRS has not published any figures for 2011 tax returns at time of publication. If you are married filing jointly and only one spouse is older than 65, gross income under $19,800 does not require filing a tax return unless you have other restrictions. If both parties are older than 65, the limit rises to $20,900.
Sources of Income
If you are self-employed or operate an ongoing business, you must file a federal income tax return. The IRS requires a tax return for ongoing businesses, whether you make a profit or owe taxes, although you can earn $400 before owing self-employment taxes. If your combined income from adjusted gross income, nontaxable interest and half of your Social Security totals more than $25,000 as a single filer, you must file a tax return. That figure is $32,000 if you are married filing jointly.
If someone else can claim you as a dependent, you
can earn $7,100 or have unearned income of $2,350 before filing a tax return, as of the time of publication. If you are married and someone claims you as a dependent, your unearned income limit is $2,050 and earned income limit is $6,800.
Recapture and Back Taxes
If you received an overpayment as a result of a credit from the IRS, or if you have back taxes due, you must file a federal income tax return. You must file a tax return if you have unreported tips or wages not included in Social Security and Medicare taxes. If you owe household employment taxes, you must file a federal tax return and Schedule H.
File a Tax Return
If you had taxes withheld from your income, file a tax return to see if you qualify for a refund. You may also qualify for a health coverage tax credit or a refundable credit such as earned income credit. The 2010 tax year was the last year for the Making Work Pay credit, providing a tax break for working taxpayers. At age 65, you qualify for assistance from the Tax Counseling for the Elderly program that provides assistance through AARP and other nonprofit organizations. These organizations and the IRS website can help you file your tax return.