How Old Do You Have to Be to File Taxes?

Updated on October 13, 2023
At a Glance: Generally, a teenager is considered a dependent on their parents’ tax return and is not required to file separate taxes until the age of 19 if they have stopped their education. If they continue their education, they can still be claimed as dependents until they reach 24. However, self-dependent teenagers can choose to file their own taxes as single individuals. Factors such as earned income and unearned income determine the tax filing requirements. Parents can help their teens file taxes and may also have the option to file taxes on their child’s behalf as dependents.

Filing taxes is one of the essential parts of being an adult. While the right way can lead to many benefits for you, it could lead you to a jail term if you file them in the wrong way. But the question is, at what age should you start filing taxes? Do you disclose the profits you made from selling lemonade in front of your porch? Read on and find answers to all your questions.

At What Age Does A Teenager Need To Start Filing Taxes?

Generally, a teenager is considered dependent on their parents’ tax sheet and is not required to file separate taxes until the age of 19 if they have stopped their education. If they choose to pursue their education further, they can additionally be claimed as dependents until they reach 24. However, if you are a self–dependent teenager and are willing to file your taxes as a single person, you can do so as well.

You must consider the fact that you can’t be dependent on your parents’ taxes and still file your own separately. That would amount to tax fraud. So, it would be best to sit and discuss the situation with your parents first. Being a dependent would give your family certain benefits that you would lose if you file them separately. Any person who is single and under the age of 65 with a gross income above $12,550 is eligible to file taxes. For those above 65, if their gross income is $13,850, then they are eligible.

Filing Taxes For Teens

Teens enjoy certain benefits when it comes to filing taxes. For one thing, having a good tax record is a good sign to start a business when they feel ready. There are several factors that you should consider for filing taxes, such as earned income, unearned income, and more. The following article will explain it all in utmost detail for you to understand.

Earned Income

The United States Internal Revenue Code defines the “earned income” of an individual as the income earned through the direct effort of the said individual. This includes income earned through wages in your professional jobs, earning salaries, tips from customers, taking commissions for any work, and any other taxable income stream.

Earned income also means net earnings made after being self–employed, gross income received as a statutory employee. Also, if you received disability income through any private employee through any disability plan and finally any non–taxable income you receive for combats as a member of the US armed forces – it also comes under earned income. One should note that the last one is a “non–taxable” income for joining the US Armed forces. Each year, such people choose whether they wish to pay taxes on this amount or not, and if they do, they decide how much of the amount they want to pay taxes for.

For teenagers, if they have done any of the above work in the past year and have earned an aggregate gross income of above $12,550, they are eligible to pay taxes.

Unearned Income

Unearned income is any income that you receive without any direct involvement by you. Professional jobs and such wages do not come under unearned income. In most cases, it is rent on your property, inheritance received from any deceased family member, or interest on any financial assets in your name. The following is the complete list of unearned income as classified by the American Social Security Administration:

  • Any value of food or shelter received from someone in the last year or any amount of money received as help
  • Any benefits from the department of veteran affairs
  • Railroad retirement and railroad unemployment benefits
  • Annuities, pensions from both government and private sources, unemployment insurance benefits, black lung benefits, and social security benefits as well.
  • Prizes, lottery winnings, settlements, and awards, including court-ordered awards
  • Proceeds of any life insurance policy
  • Gifts and any contributions gained
  • Support and alimony payments
  • Inheritances in cash and property
  • Rental income
  • Dividends and interest and finally,
  • Strike pay and other benefits from unions

As a teenager, you wouldn’t have to worry about many of these income streams but a few. You only pay taxes if your total gross unearned income within the past year exceeds $2,750 and not less

Additional Requirements

Additionally, you may have other requirements to pay your taxes beyond solely your earned and unearned income. Such as, there is an extra limit if you are a blind person paying taxes and if your total earned income and unearned income combined are worth more than $11,850 plus $ 50.

Helping Your Teen File Their Taxes

The first step as a parent in helping their child file taxes is to verify how they have filed and make sure they have everything in order. Your child needs to have the following things in order before sending in their taxes.

  • Have a valid social security number
  • They should not file a joint return even if they are married.
  • They should legally be your son, daughter, adopted child, stepchild, eligible foster child, sibling, step-sibling, or offspring of any of these.
  • They must be under the age of 19 when they file for taxes or under the age of 24 if they are a full-time student. This rule is exempted if your child is disabled permanently or totally.
  • Have been living with you for at least half a year before you file your taxes

Helping your teen understand all the above points and making them file their very own taxes would be an essential part of getting them to be an adult on their own. This is generally not taught in schools, so it is essential to teach children how to file taxes as a parent.

Filing On Your Child’s Behalf

Of course, there is a way to file the taxes yourself instead of making your child do that. It’s called “filing taxes on your child’s behalf,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Essentially, you claim the child as your dependant and file all their taxes by disclosing their income thoroughly on your tax sheet. Usually, parents of disabled children do that to help the child with their taxes. Other parents might also do the same thing if they feel that their child is not yet ready to understand the complications of tax paying.

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Final Thoughts

Filing taxes is an essential part of growing up, and it is necessary to know precisely how to do it to avoid a lot of complications in the future. If you are a parent, try to help your child in every step they need to ensure their taxes are proper since filing wrong can lead to other penalties. And if you are a teenager trying to do all this on your own, make sure you check that everything is in order before sending your papers.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.