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 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,
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.
You must file Form 1040 if you owe any self-employment tax.
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 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 2000 if your 65th birthday is on or before January 1,
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.
You must file an income tax return for a decedent (a person who
- You are the surviving spouse, executor, administrator, or
legal representative, and
- The decedent met the filing requirements at the time of his
or her death.
For more information, see Final Return for Decedent in
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
Table 2. Filing Requirements Chart for Dependents
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
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 whether the dependent has earned income, unearned income,
or both. For details, see Table 2. A dependent may also
have to file if one of the situations described inTable 3
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
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.
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.
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
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.
- Your child was under age 14 on January 1, 2001.
- Your child is required to file a return for 2000 unless you
make this election.
- Your child had gross income only from interest and dividends
(including Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends).
- The interest and dividend income was less than $7,000.
- No estimated tax payment was made for 2000 and no 1999
overpayment was applied to 2000 under your child's name and social
- No federal income tax was withheld from your child's income
under the backup withholding rules.
- 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.
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.
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