Filing Taxes for Dependents

Student Editor: Andrea G.

The IRS seems like a scary federal bureau for many of us but especially for those of us who are starting our first jobs. We always relied on our parents or guardians to claim us on our taxes, but now that we are earning income it can get very confusing as to how we file our taxes. What’s more is that we are unsure as to whether we should file at all. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss the situations in which we should file a tax return and which are the most tax advantageous ways to file our returns.

Taxes become complicated as individual situations change, which is why we recommend to always check with a tax professional about your individual tax return. The purpose of this article is to provide generic information, but you should always analyze your individual situation. It is also important to note that the purposes of this article will discuss someone being claimed as a qualified child, which is only one type of dependent situation. Other rules apply to a dependent being claimed as a qualified relative.

For most young people, filing taxes depends mostly on whether or not you are a dependent on someone else’s return. If you are not claimed as a dependent on someone’s return, then you can file a simple tax return based on a W-2 form, or an equivalent form, that your employer will usually provide to you. With that form, you can claim the wages or salaries that are reported on your W-2 form, as well as the withholdings reported on that same form. Since you are not going to be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return, you will be allowed to take your standard deductions and personal exemption as it is instructed on your tax return form. Below are some specific rules that apply for your tax return:

  • You are not required to file a tax return if you earn less than $10,350, if you are single, and are not going to be claimed as a dependent on someone’s return. Please go to website https://www.thebalance.com/are-you-required-to-file-a-tax-return-3192868 for more information about your specific filing requirements. 
  • If you have never filed a tax return before, you are not allowed to E-file (filing your tax return using an online tool). The first year you file a tax return, you must file a paper return and mail your return to the IRS. It is a simple process and you can find all the information you need at https://www.irs.gov/filing/individuals/how-to-file

If you are claimed on someone else’s tax return, you can still file your own individual tax return based on your income, but there are some exceptions to the deductions, credits, and exemptions that you can take. Overall, you can still report your income and withholdings based on your W-2 form, but you cannot take your personal exemption on your tax return. Doing so will prevent the person claiming you on their tax return as a dependent to claim that exemption. Please be aware that you can still be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return if you are under 24 years old and a full-time student. Many people continue to claim dependents on their tax return past the age of 18 because more likely than not, the dependent will not make enough income to receive the tax benefits of receiving this exemption. For this reason, it is important to discuss how you will file your tax return with your parents or guardians. If you are single and are going to be claimed as a dependent, you are not required to file if you earn less than $6,300. 

Even though you may be under the required income to file a tax return, it is recommended to file a tax return because you will likely be paying taxes through withholdings. If you payed taxes through withholdings but are not required to file a tax return, filing a return can allow you to receive a refund on those taxes that you payed. Even though a first-time return cannot E-file, in order to ensure that you will receive a refund, you can begin an E-file for free on https://www.irs.gov/filing/e-file-options to see how much of a refund you can receive.