Dependent Filing Requirements
Your qualifying dependent may need to file a tax return if their income is within the IRS filing requirements. To determine if your dependent is required to file a return, use our FILEucator Tax Tool. Once you answer a few simple questions about your dependent's situation, you will find out if your dependent needs 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 e-file the return on eFile.com.
See also: how much can a child make and still qualify as a dependent? What is the Kiddie Tax?
If a person was born during the year or is under age 24 and has low taxable income - below the standard deduction amount - it might be advantageous to e-file a tax return to possibly benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC in the form of a tax refund. However, a dependent cannot claim the EITC; a parent or guardian claiming the dependent will benefit from this credit on their own return. Note: when you claim your dependent, you do not report their earned income on your tax return.
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, tips, and other amounts you received as pay for work you actually perform. Taxable scholarship and fellowship grants are also included as earned income. See a list of possible forms that taxable income could be reported on.
- Unearned income: Taxable interest, capital gains, and ordinary dividends are examples of unearned income. Unemployment compensation, taxable social security benefits, pensions, and annuities of unearned income from a trust are also considered to be unearned income. Unearned income is not always nontaxable income.
- At any age, if you are a dependent on another person's tax return and you are filing your own tax return, your standard deduction cannot exceed the greater of $1,250 or the sum of $400 and your individual earned income. In the case of the latter, this cannot exceed the regular standard deduction.
- Examples are on the linked standard deduction page.
Be aware that if you are under age 16 and have never filed a tax return, you cannot yet e-file your first year. You can prepare your return on eFile.com, print it, and mail it to the IRS to file it. However, you will be able to e-file your return the following year. As a dependent, your return is most likely free on eFile.com should it not be free for any reason, contact us for a promo code. See tax return printing and mailing instructions.
Learn more about who qualifies as a dependent and use the FILEucator tool to quickly find out if you have to file a return.
Do IT Less Taxing!
As a single parent or a married couple with children, dependents can help you save money on taxes. If you are single with one or more dependents, you should file as head of household; this filing status allows single filers to claim dependents and take advantage of a higher standard deduction and other tax breaks. See if you qualify as head of household here. Because dependents are advantageous for taxes, many dependents may be wrongly claimed; learn what to do.
When a Dependent Should File Taxes
If your dependent works a part-time job at a grocery store or they take on a paid internship, they may receive a W-2 or 1099 for this income. If your dependent earns income, they may have had taxes withheld and will need to file a tax return. As a dependent, this is done by indicating it on Form 1040 - eFile will fill this in for the dependent when they indicate that they will be claimed.
Related: Who can I claim as a tax dependent?
As a dependent working a W-2 job, you may be wondering how a dependent fills out a W-4. On eFile.com, you can use our free W-4 creator tools to help you with this. This IRS tax withholding form helps you determine how much taxes to have sent to the IRS from your paycheck each week, every other week, or monthly. If you do not make much money from your employment, you may not need to have taxes withheld at all. As a dependent, if you make under the standard deduction, you should simply elect to have $0 in taxes withheld from your pay and you would see larger paychecks each pay period.
You can calculate your tax return here to see how this works; input your W-2 income, enter 0 taxes withheld, and see that your taxes owed/tax refund does not change if it is under the standard deduction.
Use these three general points on whether or not you should file:
Determine if you need to file taxes here; see more information via IRS Publication 929, Tax Rules for Children and Dependents.
Dependent Filing Requirements
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 filing status and age. The current tax year minimum income requirements for dependents are listed in the table below.
We recommend that any dependent working should prepare their return regardless of how much they earned and you will certainly want to file if taxes were withheld. It's free to prepare on eFile.com and you can simply cancel if you do not need to file.
Earned income refers to income earned by working as an employee; unearned income is income not earned by working, such as investment income or gifts. For married dependents, if your spouse files a separate return and itemizes deductions, you must also file a separate return if your total income is $5 or more. Additionally, regardless of your age and filing status, if you have at least $400 from self-employment activities, you must file a tax return. This applies to all tax years.
In general, a dependent should file if their earned income exceeds the standard deduction for singles or if their investment income exceeds $1,250 for 2023 or $1,300 for 2024. You should file a return if you had taxes withheld from your pay in any amount; determine if you should file here.
Dependent Standard Deduction
A dependent may be qualified for a standard deduction of $1,250 or the sum of $400 plus their earned income. See the table item Dependent on the standard deduction page for details and examples.
Next Year's Dependent Standard Deduction
More than $14,600 earned or more than $1,300 unearned
$1,550 or the sum of $450 plus their earned income
Back Tax Dependent Deductions
The remaining filing income requirements are ordered by the latest tax years. File back taxes as soon as possible if you owe taxes or if you are owed a refund.
More than $12,950 earned or more than $1,150 unearned
$1,150 or the sum of $400 plus their earned income
More than $12,550 earned or more than $1,100 unearned
$1,100 or the sum of $350 plus their earned income
More than $12,400 earned or more than $1,100 unearned
$1,100 or the sum of $350 plus their earned income
The Kiddie Tax
A tax was put into place to prevent parents from putting their investment income into an account under their child dependent's name since it would be taxed significantly yes. This was a tax loophole or way to avoid taxes that was closed with the introduction of the Kiddie Tax. Now, dependents face a standard deduction for unearned income (stocks and other assets that generate passive income) of around $1,000 until they begin paying taxes. If it is more than double the amount of the standard deduction, then the income is taxed at a specific tax calculated on Form 8615. This is generally their parents' tax rate.
For example, for 2023, a dependent's unearned income would be broken down as:
$0 - $1,250 is untaxed | $1,251 - $2,500 is taxed at their tax rate or 10% | $2,501 or more is taxed at their parent's or parents' tax rate.
Below, find the Kiddie Tax rates for current, future, and back taxes:
- 2024: $1,300 - $2,600
- 2023: $1,250 - $2,500
- 2022: $1,250 - $2,500
- 2021: $1,250 - $2,500.
If you transfer assets to your dependent or they have their own and earn income from it, prepare your return on eFile.com and the tax app will figure these amounts for you.
The Kiddie Tax applies to any dependent children age 18 or younger as well as 19-24-year-olds that are full-time students. This tax is only for unearned income, such as interest and dividends, any capital gains, taxable scholarships, and other types of passive income.
Dependents and Income
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 to claim the earnings and even received the earnings because of this ruling.
Be aware that you should NOT include your dependent's income as income on your own tax return. Your dependent has to 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. If your dependent fails to do this, it might cause the IRS to reject your return when you attempt to e-file it.
A qualifying child dependent can make as much money as they want, as there is no income rule for these dependents. However, a qualifying relative can only make up to $4,700 in 2023, up from $4,400 in 2022.
Dependent Has No Income
Your dependent might 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. If it is possible that they will receive a tax refund, they should file a return in order to claim it. If your dependent wants to find out if they will be getting a refund or will owe taxes, they can use our free tax refund calculator. Once they enter their tax information (income, tax withheld, tax credits/deductions, etc.), the calculator will provide 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 eFile.com:
Start Your Tax Return Now
Your dependent 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). Otherwise, you can claim this credit on your return by reporting their 1098-T.
Dependent Cannot File Due to Age
Be aware that if your dependent is under 16 years old and this is their first time filing a tax return, they cannot e-file their return. They can still prepare their return on eFile.com, print it, and mail it to the IRS to file it. They will be able to e-file their tax return the following year.
If your dependent child must file a tax return, but cannot because of their age or other reason, then 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's 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, 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 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 $12,500.
- 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 overpayments 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.
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 four 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 or 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. Then, you can use our DEPENDucator tax tool to see if you can claim your child or relative as a 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 e-file their tax return on eFile.com. We will determine the correct forms based on their answers to simple tax questions; their return will be double-checked for accuracy and missing information before they eFileIT.
Start Your Tax Return Now
Before they start preparing their return, your dependent will need copies of their W-2, 1099-NEC, or other tax forms from their employer or financial institution.
Related Information on Dependents and Tax Returns
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