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Do I Have to File A Return for 2020 or 2021?

Should I file a return?

Whether you have to or should file a 2020 Tax Return in 2021 is answered here. The very basic and general answer is this: as a filing single or married filing separate person, if your 2020 income did not not equal or exceed the standard deduction limit of $12,400 and you do not owe any special taxes or have any special tax situations that require you to file, you do not need to file. For the head of household filing status, the income limit would be at or above $18,650 and, for married filing jointly and qualifying widow(er), $24,800.

To File Or Not To File?

However, there are many more factors that either might require you to file or it might be beneficial for you to file. See the Reasons to File a Return example plus a more detailed Minimum Income Tax Return Filing Requirements below. For example, in order for you to take advantage for eligible tax credits you will have to file a tax return; use any of these free tools and calculators to help you find out if you do qualify.

Tip: The interactive FILEucator tool gives you your personal
answer on whether you must prepare
and e-File or file a tax return quickly and accurately.

Again, even if you are not required to file, find reasons below on why you still might want to file. Your filing requirements to prepare and eFile a 2020 federal income tax return by April 15, 2021 depends on the following factors: Filing Status, Taxable Income, and your Dependency Status.

Reasons to File a Return

How much money do I have to make to file taxes?

Let's say a single person without a qualified child(ren) had a total of $7,900 taxable income in 2020 and was born in 1995 or before. Since the standard deduction for a single person in 2020 is $12,400, it's easy to assume not to file a tax return as it would result in a zero tax refund and zero taxes owed. Not so! The eFile.com tax app would automatically apply the Earned Income Tax Credit - EITC for all eligible ages between 25 and 65, which may be worth $538.

In addition, the taxpayer in question may have one or more qualified dependents or children, regardless of age. With this credit, a tax return would result in a tax refund of $3,584 as anybody born during or before 1995 is eligible for the EITC at certain income levels. To see if you qualify for the EITC, use this free EITCucator. Plus, eligible refundable tax credits might reduce the tax liability and/or increase the tax refund.

Over 65 with Social Security Income? Find tax benefits and information around your Social Security.

Not sure if you need to file a return as a student? If you work during school and receive income, even if it isn't a lot, it may be beneficial if you file a return and report your income. Report the information from a Form W-2 received from working a part-time job or from a 1099 form if you were self employed or on contract. Additionally, you may be able to claim education tax credit, which can only be credited if you file.

You may be able to find a reason to file a tax return even if you earn less than the standard deduction - find out below.

Tax Tip: File a tax return or tax extension on time if you owe taxes, even if you can't pay the taxes on time. Keep in mind that the late-filing penalties are considerably higher than the penalties for not paying taxes on time.

We spare you the time and effort of researching whether you have to file a tax return or not; simply use the free and easyFILEucator to find out if you are required to file a return or not. Just click and answer a few questions and you will know. Even if you're not required to file a 2020 return, there are reasons you may want to e-file a tax return as listed above.

If you wish to read more about this, review the sections below to find out if you are required to file a 2020 Tax Return in 2021:

  • Minimum income tax return filing requirements
  • Other reasons to file a return
  • Tax return filing requirements for dependents
  • Reasons you may want to file a tax return
  • Taxable versus nontaxable income

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Criteria to File Income Tax Returns

The minimum income required to e-file or file a tax return for Tax Year 2020 depends on your taxable income, age, and filing status during the tax year. The minimum income levels for the various filing statuses are listed on our standard deduction page. If you make more than the standard deduction for your age and filing status, then you are required to file a tax return.

If you earned below the minimum income for your filing status, you may not be required to file a Federal Tax Return. However, there are reasons why you may still want to file. See a detailed listing below.

Taxable versus Tax Free Income
If income you generate is tax free, there is no need to file a tax return, but you may still want to. Lean about Taxable Income versus Tax Free or Nontaxable Income.
Income: W-2 Wages, Salary
Generally, if your income is below the current standard deductions, you don't have to file a return. However, it might still be beneficial for you to file as stated with the example above. Review W-2 Income.
Income: Independent Contractor, Self Employment
Generally, if your self employment income - 1099 Forms - is over $400, you are required to file a return.
Income: Unemployment Benefits
Unemployment income will be reported to you and the IRS on Form 1099-G. Visit the states page to find information on state unemployment benefits. In most cases, taxes are withheld from unemployment payments. If you received unemployment benefits during 2020, you will need to report them on your return.
Filing Status, Age
The filing status is directly related to the standard deduction limits. Age plays a role in this as well. Check the current standard deduction limits.
If somebody will claim you as a dependent on their return, use the FILEucator FILEucator tool and visit this page: Dependents and Taxes.
If you qualify, you must file a return to receive the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit. See if you qualify by using this free EITCucator.
Household Employment Taxes
If you employ any person(s) to work in your home or other residency, then you are a household employer and will owe household employment taxes. These include hiring a maid, gardener, babysitter, or other person who performs work in or around a private residence of yours. This does not include independent contractors, like plumbers or repairmen.  
You may owe additional taxes on a retirement plan, such as an individual retirement arrangement, IRA, 401K, or other tax-favored account. You will need to file a return to claim the Saver's Credit. Read these pages to learn more about your specific situation if you made retirement plan contributions to or taxable distributions from an account. 
Alternative Minimum Tax
You may owe the Alternative Minimum Tax if your AMT is greater than your standard tax liability. The eFile App will determine which you will be subject to.

Home-buyer Credit
You must repay the 2008 Home-buyer Credit (or any other recapture taxes).
Social Security, Medicare Taxes
You may owe Social Security tax if you have other sources of income - see page for details. Medicare taxes may also be taxed. This goes for unreported tip income; report any tip income to your employer so they can withhold Social Security, retirement, Medicare, etc.
Church related Income
If you earned $108.28 or more in income from a tax-exempt church or church-controlled organization, taxes do apply against this income. No deductions for trade or business expenses are allowed against this self-employment income.
HSA or MSA Distribution
You received distributions from an HSA Health Saving Account or MSA Medical Savings Account. These are detailed on this page, which shows how to report and file these distributions and other information.
Premium Tax Credit
You received an advance payment on the Premium Tax Credit. This credit is refundable and will need to be claimed on a tax return.
Tax Withholding
If you had taxes withheld from your pay, you must file a tax return to receive this money back as a tax refund if you had withheld too much.
Education Credits
If you are planning to claim education credits, you must file to be refunded the American Opportunity Credit. See the page for additional savings for college students and taxes. 
Child Tax Credits
If you have a qualifying child but owe no tax, you can file to be refunded the Additional Child Tax Credit
Health Tax Credit
If you qualify, you must file to claim the refundable Health Coverage Tax Credit. For more details, read IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses (Including the Health Coverage Tax Credit).
Adoption Tax Credit
If you adopted a qualifying child, you must file to claim the Adoption Tax Credit. Though nonrefundable, this credit can lower your taxes. See the page to find how to claim it.

Additional Resources

Use these free calculators, courtesy of eFile.com, to determine your filing situation for your 2020 Return.

Find out if you are required to file previous tax year return(s).

Learn about tax history and how technology has allowed e-filing to become the most popular form of filing.

Why prepare your taxes with eFile.com?