IRS Tax Forms  
Publication 501 2001 Tax Year

Who Must File

If you are a U.S. citizen or resident, whether you must file a federal income tax return depends upon your gross income, your filing status, your age, and whether you are a dependent. For details, see Table 1 and Table 2. You must also file if one of the situations described in Table 3 applies. The filing requirements apply even if you owe no tax.

You may have to pay a penalty if you are required to file a return but fail to. If you wilfully fail to file a return, you may be subject to criminal prosecution.

For information on what form to use -- Form 1040EZ, Form 1040A, or Form 1040 -- see the instructions in your tax package.

Gross income. Gross income is all income you receive in the form of money, goods, property, and services that is not exempt from tax. If you are married and live with your spouse in a community property state, half of any income defined by state law as community income may be considered yours. For a list of community property states, see Community property states under Married Filing Separately, later.

Self-employed persons. If you are self-employed in a business that provides services (where products are not a factor), your gross income from that business is the gross receipts. If you are self-employed in a business involving manufacturing, merchandising, or mining, your gross income from that business is the total sales minus the cost of goods sold. To this figure, you add any income from investments and from incidental or outside operations or sources.

TaxTip: You must file Form 1040 if you owe any self-employment tax.

Filing status. Your filing status generally depends on whether you are single or married. In some cases, it depends on other factors as well. Whether you are single or married is determined as of the last day of your tax year, which is December 31 for most taxpayers. Filing status is discussed in detail later in this publication.

Age. Age is a factor in determining if you must file a return only if you are 65 or older at the end of your tax year. You are considered to be age 65 for 2001 if your 65th birthday is on or before January 1, 2002.

Filing Requirements for Most Taxpayers

You must file a return if your gross income for the year was at least the amount shown on the appropriate line in Table 1. Dependents should see Table 2 instead.

Deceased Persons

You must file an income tax return for a decedent (a person who died) if both of the following are true.

  1. You are the surviving spouse, executor, administrator, or legal representative.
  2. The decedent met the filing requirements at the time of his or her death.

For more information, see Final Return for Decedent in Publication 559.

Table 2. Filing Requirements Chart for Dependents

U.S. Citizens or Residents Living Abroad

For purposes of determining whether you must file a return, you must include in your gross income all of the income you earned abroad, including any income you can exclude under the foreign earned income exclusion. For more information on special tax rules that may apply to you, see Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad.

Residents of Puerto Rico

Generally, if you are a U.S. citizen and a resident of Puerto Rico, you must file a U.S. income tax return if you meet the income requirements. This is in addition to any legal requirement you may have to file an income tax return with Puerto Rico.

If you are a resident of Puerto Rico for the whole year, your U.S. gross income does not include income from sources within Puerto Rico. However, include in your U.S. gross income any income you received for your services as an employee of the United States or any U.S. agency. If you receive income from Puerto Rican sources that is not subject to U.S. tax, you must reduce your standard deduction. This also reduces the amount of income you can have before you must file a U.S. income tax return.

For more information, see Publication 570, Tax Guide for Individuals With Income From U.S. Possessions.

Individuals With Income From U.S. Possessions

If you had income from Guam, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, or the Virgin Islands, special rules may apply when determining whether you must file a U.S. federal income tax return. In addition, you may have to file a return with the individual island government. See Publication 570 for more information.


A person who is a dependent may still have to file a return. This depends on the amount of the dependent's earned income, unearned income, and gross income. For details, see Table 2. A dependent may also have to file if one of the situations described in Table 3 applies.

Responsibility of parent. If a dependent child who must file an income tax return cannot file it for any reason, such as age, a parent, guardian, or other legally responsible person must file it for the child. If the child cannot sign the return, the parent or guardian must sign the child's name followed by the words "By (signature), parent (or guardian), for minor child."

Earned income. This is salaries, wages, professional fees, and other amounts received as pay for work you actually perform. Earned income (only for purposes of filing requirements and the standard deduction) also includes any part of a scholarship that you must include in your gross income. See Publication 520, Scholarships and Fellowships, for more information on taxable and nontaxable scholarships.

Child's earnings. Amounts a child earns by performing services are his or her gross income. This is true even if under local law the child's parents have the right to the earnings and may actually have received them. If the child does not pay the tax due on this income, the parent is liable for the tax.

Unearned income. This is income such as interest, dividends, and capital gains. Trust distributions of interest, dividends, capital gains, and survivor annuities are considered unearned income also.

Election to report child's unearned income on parent's return. You may be able to include your child's interest and dividend income on your tax return. If you choose to do this, your child will not have to file a return. However, all of the following conditions must be met.

  1. Your child was under age 14 on January 1, 2002.
  2. Your child is required to file a return for 2001 unless you make this election.
  3. Your child had gross income only from interest and dividends (including Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends).
  4. The interest and dividend income was less than $7,500.
  5. No estimated tax payment was made for 2001 and no 2000 overpayment was applied to 2001 under your child's name and social security number.
  6. No federal income tax was withheld from your child's income under the backup withholding rules.
  7. You are the parent whose return must be used when making the election to report your child's unearned income.

For more information, see Parent's Election To Report Child's Interest and Dividends in Publication 929, and Form 8814.

Other Situations

You may have to file a tax return even if your gross income is less than the amount shown in Table 1 or Table 2 for your filing status. See Table 3 for those other situations when you must file.

Table 3. Other Situations When You Must File a 2001 Return

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