Filing Requirements For Dependents

Generally, your dependent may be required to (or want to) file a tax return if their income is within the IRS filing requirements.

Use our FREE FILEucator Tax Tool! Once you answer a few simple questions about your dependent's situation, you or your dependent will find out if your dependent needs to (or wants to) file a tax return. It's that easy! If your dependent is required to file a tax return, you or your dependent can prepare and file the return on

Your dependent may be required to file a return if they have one or more of the following types of income:

  • Earned income: This includes wages, salaries, and other amounts you received as pay for work you actually perform. Taxable scholarship income is also generally included.
  • Unearned income: Interest, capital gains, and interest are examples of unearned income. Trust distributions of dividends, capital gains, interest, and survivor annuities are also considered unearned income.

Income Requirements for Dependents

If your dependent is claimed on your tax return, they may still be required to file an income tax return of their own. The requirements vary by marriage status and age. The 2018 Tax Year minimum income requirements for dependents are listed in the table below.

Marriage Status
Minimum Income Requirement
Minimum Self-Employment Income Requirement
Under 65 (and not blind)
More than $12,000 earned (or more than $1,050 unearned*)
65 or older OR blind
More than $13,600 earned (or more than $2,650 unearned)
65 or older AND blind
More than $11,650 earned (or more than $1,950 unearned)
Under 65 (and not blind)
More than $12,000 earned (or more than $1,050 unearned)
65 or older OR blind
More than $13,300 earned (at least $5 if spouse files separate return and itemizes deductions) (or more than $2,350 unearned)
65 or older AND blind
More than $11,650 earned (at least $5 if spouse files separate return and itemizes deductions) (or more than $2,950 unearned)

* Income that you did not earn by working, such as investment income or gifts.

** You must file a return if your spouse files a separate return and itemizes deductions and your total income is $5 or more.

If you have a dependent child who earned income by performing services, this income is included in your dependent's gross income and must be reported on his or her individual tax return. This is true even if a local law states that a child's parent has the right the claim the earnings and even received the earnings because of this ruling.

Please be aware that you should NOT include your dependent's income as income on your own tax return. Your dependent has the report their income on their own tax return. In addition, your dependent needs to check a box on his or her own tax return to report that he or she can be claimed as a dependent on somebody else's tax return.

Dependent Has No Income

They may need to file a return if one of the special reasons to file a tax return applies to them. For example, if they bought health insurance from the Marketplace, they need to file a return in order to claim the refundable Premium Tax Credit.

Your dependent can file a return if they want to, even if they do not have to file. It is possible that they will received a refund  they should file a return in order to claim the refund). If your dependent wants to find out if they will be getting a refund or will owe taxes, they can use our Free Tax Calculator for an estimate. Once they enter some tax information (income, tax withheld, tax credits/deductions, etc), the calculator will provide them with an accurate estimate. However, the best way to determine whether or not they will receive a refund is to start preparing a tax return on, where the calculations will be 100% correct.

Start Your Tax Return Now!

Your student may need to file a return if they meet the IRS filing requirements. Even if they are not required to file, they may want to file a return in order to claim a refundable tax credit (i.e. American Opportunity Credit).

Be aware that if your dependent is under 16 years old and this is their first time filing a tax return, they cannot efile their return. They will need to prepare and file their return to the IRS via mail (they can prepare their return on However, they can efile their tax return the following year.

Dependent Cannot File Due to Age

If your dependent child must file a tax return, but cannot because of their age or other reason, you, a guardian, or other person who is legally responsible for the child must file the return on the child's behalf. The person must also sign the child name on the return if the child cannot sign it, followed by "By [your signature], parent for minor child." In addition, if your child owes tax on their income and they do not pay the tax due, you (or the child's guardian) are responsible for paying the owed tax.

Dividend and Interest Income From Dependent

You may be able to include your dependent child's dividend and interest income on your tax return. If you report this income on your return, your child will not have to file their own tax return. All of the following conditions must be met before you can claim your child's interest and dividend income on your return:

  • Your child is under age 19 (or under age 24 if a he or she is a student) at the end of the Tax Year.

  • Your child's gross income is only from dividends and interest (including capital gain distributions and Alaska Permanent Fund dividends).
  • The dividend and interest income was less than $10,400

  • Your child is required to file a tax return unless you meet the requirements to file your own return with your child's income.
  • Your child does not file a joint tax return.

  • No estimated tax payments were submitted for the current Tax Year and no overpayment for the previous Tax Year were applied for the current Tax Year under your child's name and Social Security number.
  • You must be the parent whose tax return is used when reporting your child's income.

  • No federal backup withholding tax was withheld from your child's income.

Backup Withholding

Usually, backup withholding applies to most types of payments reported on Form 1099. These payments include:

  • Interest payments (reported on Form 1099-INT)
  • Dividends (reported on Form 1099-DIV)
  • Patronage dividends (reported on Form 1099-PATR, but only if at least half the payment is in money)
  • Rents, profits, or other gains (reported on Form 1099-MISC)
  • Commissions, fees, or other payment for independent contractor work (reported on 1099-MISC)
  • Payments by brokers (reported on Form 1099-B)
  • Payments by fishing boat operators (reported on Form 1099-MISC, but only the money part and it should represent a share of the proceeds of the catch)
  • Royalty payments (reported on Form 1099-MISC)
  • Gambling winnings (reported on Form W-2G)

Backup withholding generally does not apply to other payments reported on Form 1099-MISC (other than royalty payments and payments by fishing boat operators) unless at least one of the following three situations applies:

  • The amount received from any payer is $600 or more
  • The payer had to give you a Form 1099 for the previous Tax Year
  • The payer made payments to you last year that were subject to backup withholding
  • The amount is less than $10 (neither a Form 1099 nor backup withholding is required)

Filing a Return For A Young Child/Relative

In order to decide if your dependent should file a return on their own or with you, we recommend that you use our FILEucator tool to find out if your relative or child needs to file their own tax return. Then, use our DEPENDucator tax tool to see if you can claim your child or relative as as dependent. Finally, use the results from both tools (as well as review the IRS tax return filing requirements) to decide the best way to file based on your situation.

Your dependent can prepare and efile their tax return on We will determine the correct forms for them based on their answer to simple tax questions. Then we will guide them through filling them out correctly, and we will double-check everything for accuracy and missing information.

Start Your Tax Return Now!

Before they start preparing their return. your dependent will need copies of their W-2, 1099-MISC, or other tax informational forms from their employer.

Related Information on Dependents and Tax Returns