If income tax was withheld from your pay, or if you can take the
earned income credit, you should file a return even if you are not
required to do so.
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.
Instructions for Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ and Publication 501,
Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information,
contain more detailed information.
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 employed, gross income includes your total salary or
wages. If you own rental property, it includes the total rent you
receive before you deduct any rental expenses.
If you are self-employed in a business that provides services
(where products are not a factor), gross income is gross receipts from
that business. If you are self-employed in a business involving
manufacturing, merchandising, or mining, gross income is total sales
from that business minus the cost of goods sold.
Gross income includes any income from investments and from
incidental or outside operations or sources. It does not include
nontaxable income, such as welfare benefits or nontaxable social
For more information on what income is taxable, see Taxable
and Nontaxable Income, later.
If you could be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer, special
filing requirements apply. See Publication 501.
A personal representative of an estate can be an executor,
administrator, or anyone who is in charge of the decedent's property.
If you are acting as the personal representative of a person who
died during the year, you may have to file a final return for the
decedent. You also have other duties, such as notifying the IRS that
you are acting as the personal representative. Form 56,
Notice Concerning Fiduciary Relationship, is available for
this purpose. For more information, see Publication 559,
Survivors, Executors, and Administrators.
When you file a return for the decedent, either as the personal
representative or as the surviving spouse, you should write
"DECEASED," the decedent's name, and the date of death, across
the top of the tax return.
If no personal representative has been appointed by the due date
for filing the return, the surviving spouse (on a joint return) should
sign the return and write in the signature area "Filing as surviving
spouse." See Publication 559
for other important information.
If you are the surviving spouse, the year your spouse died is the
last year you may file a joint return with that spouse. After that, if
you do not remarry, you must file as a qualifying widow(er) with
dependent child, head of household, or single. If you remarry before
the end of the year in which your spouse died, a final joint return
with the deceased spouse cannot be filed. You can, however, file a
joint return with your new spouse. The filing status of your deceased
spouse for his or her final return is married filing separately.
The level of income that requires you to file an income tax return
changes when your filing status changes. Even if you and your deceased
spouse were not required to file a return for several years, you may
have to file a return for the year of death.
For more information on filing requirements, see Publication 501.
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