Even if your parents claim you as a dependent on their tax return, you can still file your own return, and in some instances, you may be required to file a return. If you worked, had interest or dividend income, or had federal income taxes withheld from income you received, you’ll want to review your filing requirements with the Internal Revenue Service. Even if you don’t have to file, you could still qualify for your own tax refund even if your parents claim you.
Required to File
As of the date of publication, even if your parents claim you as a dependent, you’ll need to file if you earn more than $5,950 in wages or more than $400 in self-employment income. You’ll also need to file if you receive more than $950 in interest, dividends or capital gains income. You may have interest income if you own bank accounts or bonds, and may have dividend income if you own stocks or similar investments. Capital gains are earned when you sell investments like stock or mutual fund shares. If you have any of these types of income, you might receive a W-2, 1099-INT, 1099-DIV or 1099-B tax form at the end of the year.
Claiming a Refund
Federal income taxes may be withheld from income you receive during the year. When income taxes are taken from you, the amounts are sent to the IRS as a credit toward income taxes you might owe on the money you received. Even if you don’t meet the income limits that require you to file a return, if you had income taxes subtracted from your pay, it is worth it to prepare a return and see if you’re due a refund of the taxes you paid the IRS through withholding. If you are due a refund, the only way to get it is to file your own return.
The IRS allows taxpayers to either file a paper return or file an electronic return. E-filing is the preferred method, both for taxpayers and the IRS, because it reduces return-related errors, speeds up processing times, and allows people to get their tax refunds faster. Because e-filed returns are not printed and mailed, the IRS requires filers to enter a personal identification number -- a PIN -- to sign the return. If you’re under age 16 and have never filed a return before, you will not be able to select your own PIN to sign an electronic return. In this instance, you must either have a professional tax preparer e-file your return, or file a paper return. If you are over age 16 or have filed a return before and need help using the self-select PIN service, contact the IRS at 866-704-7388.
Deadline to File
For most taxpayers, the deadline to file a return is April 15, but if you’re due a refund or do not owe any tax, you won’t be in trouble if you don’t file by this date. The IRS charges a penalty to those who owe tax and file late, but penalties are calculated as a percentage of what someone owes. When you don’t owe any tax, the IRS doesn’t charge the penalty. Although you won’t be penalized for filing late when you’re expecting a refund, you’ll still want to file as soon as possible because the IRS only allows you three years to claim any refund you’re due.
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