Dear Retiree: Whether or not you are required to file a federal income tax return this year will depend on how much you earned (gross income) — and the source of that income — as well as your filing status and your age. Your gross income includes all the income you receive that is not exempt from tax, not counting your Social Security benefits, unless you are married and filing separately.
Here’s a rundown of the IRS filing requirements for this tax season. If your 2014 gross income was below the threshold for your age and filing status, you probably won’t have to file. But if it’s over, you will.
To get a detailed breakdown on federal filing requirements, along with information on taxable and nontaxable income, call the IRS at 800-829-3676 and ask them to mail you a free copy of the “Tax Guide for Seniors” (publication 554), or see irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p554.pdf.
There are, however, some other financial situations that will require you to file a tax return, even if your gross income falls below the IRS filing requirement. For example, if you had earnings from self-employment in 2014 of $400 or more, or if you owe any special taxes to the IRS such as alternative minimum tax or IRA tax penalties, you’ll probably need to file.
To figure this out, the IRS offers a tool on their website that asks a series of questions that will help you determine if you’re required to file, or if you should file because you’re due a refund.
You can access this page at irs.gov/filing — click on “Do you need to file a return?” Or, you can get assistance over the phone by calling the IRS helpline at 800-829-1040. You can also get face-to-face help at a Taxpayer Assistance Center. See irs.gov/localcontacts or call 800-829-1040 to locate a center near you.
CHECK YOUR STATE
Even if you’re not required to file a federal tax return this year, don’t assume that you’re also excused from filing state income taxes. The rules for your state might be very different. Check with your state tax agency before concluding that you’re entirely in the clear. For links to state and local tax agencies see taxadmin.org— click on “State Agencies/Links” on the menu bar.
TAX PREP ASSISTANCE
If you find that you do need to file a tax return this year, you can get help through the Tax Counseling for the Elderly program. Sponsored by the IRS, the program provides free tax preparation and counseling to middle and low-income taxpayers, age 60 and older. Call 800-906-9887 or visit irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep to locate a service near you.
Also check with AARP, a participant in the program that provides free tax preparation at more than 5,000 sites nationwide. To locate an AARP Tax-Aide site call 888-227-7669 or visit aarp.org/findtaxhelp. You don’t have to be an AARP member to use this service.