Who Must file Tax return for 2023

Fulfilling your tax obligations is a fundamental aspect of financial responsibility, and understanding whether you are required to file a tax return is crucial. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) establishes specific criteria that determine whether individuals must file a tax return for the tax year 2023. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the filing requirements, ensuring that you have the necessary information to navigate the complexities of tax regulations.

Who Must File Tax Return for 2023 in 2024?

Whether you are a single individual, a head of household, or part of a married couple, factors such as age, income, and filing status play a pivotal role in determining your filing obligations. Throughout this guide, we will explore the diverse scenarios and conditions outlined by the IRS, shedding light on who must file a tax return in 2023.

Navigating the nuances of tax regulations is essential not only for compliance but also to leverage potential benefits, including tax credits and refunds. As we delve into the specifics of filing requirements, you’ll gain valuable insights into when it is not just an obligation but also an opportunity to optimize your financial situation. Let’s embark on this journey to understand the intricacies of who must file a tax return for the tax year 2023.

Determining Filing Requirements:

  • Refer to Table 1 and Table 2 for detailed information on filing requirements based on gross income, filing status, and age.
  • File a return if any of the situations outlined in Table 3 are applicable, even if you do not owe any tax.
  • Check Cases where You should File a Return even if not required to file as per Tables 1,2,3 above.

Ensuring compliance with federal income tax filing requirements is crucial, and individuals are encouraged to review the relevant tables and guidelines to determine their specific obligations. Failure to meet these obligations may result in financial penalties or legal consequences.

Tax Brackets 2023

Table 1: 2023 Filing Requirements Chart for Most Taxpayers

Filing StatusAge at the end of 2023Gross Income Threshold
SingleUnder 65$13,850
Single65 or older$15,700
Head of HouseholdUnder 65$20,800
Head of Household65 or older$22,650
Married Filing JointlyUnder 65 (both spouses)$27,700
Married Filing Jointly65 or older (one spouse)$29,200
Married Filing Jointly65 or older (both spouses)$30,700
Married Filing SeparatelyAny age$5
Qualifying Surviving SpouseUnder 65$27,700
Qualifying Surviving Spouse65 or older$29,200
Filing Requirements Chart

Note: If born before January 2, 1959, individuals are considered 65 or older at the end of 2023.

Gross Income for Federal Income Tax

Gross income, as defined for federal income tax purposes, encompasses all forms of income received, including money, goods, property, and services. It includes income from various sources, both within and outside the United States. Key considerations related to gross income are outlined below:

  1. Inclusions in Gross Income:
    • All income received in the form of money, goods, property, and services is included.
    • This includes income from sources outside the United States and proceeds from the sale of the main home (even if excluding part or all of it).
  2. Social Security Benefits:
    • Social security benefits are generally not included in gross income.
    • Exceptions apply if:
      • (a) Married filing separately and lived with the spouse at any time during 2023.
      • (b) One-half of social security benefits, combined with other gross income and tax-exempt interest, exceeds $25,000 ($32,000 for married filing jointly).
    • In such cases, refer to Form 1040 and 1040-SR instructions to calculate the taxable portion of social security benefits to be included in gross income.
  3. Treatment of Gains and Losses:
    • Gains reported on Form 8949 or Schedule D are considered part of gross income.
    • Losses, however, are not subtracted when calculating gross income.
  4. Gross Income from Business:
    • For business income, the amount specified on Schedule C, line 7 (for sole proprietors) or Schedule F, line 9 (for farmers), represents gross income.
    • Losses reported on these schedules are not deducted when calculating gross income.
  5. Filing Requirement Exception:
    • An exception to the filing requirement exists for individuals who did not live with their spouse at the end of 2023 (or on the date of the spouse’s death) and whose gross income was at least $5. In such cases, filing a return is mandatory, regardless of age.
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Self-Employed Individuals: Determining Gross Income

For self-employed individuals, the calculation of gross income depends on the nature of the business. Here’s a breakdown of the considerations:

  1. Service-Based Business:
    • For self-employed individuals providing services (where products are not a factor), gross income is determined by the gross receipts.
    • Gross receipts include all revenue generated from the services provided.
  2. Business Involving Manufacturing, Merchandising, or Mining:
    • If the self-employed individual is engaged in a business that involves manufacturing, merchandising, or mining, the calculation of gross income is slightly different.
    • In this case, gross income is determined by subtracting the cost of goods sold from the total sales.
    • Formula: Gross Income = Total Sales – Cost of Goods Sold
    • The cost of goods sold includes the direct costs associated with producing or acquiring the goods being sold.
  3. Additional Considerations:
    • Regardless of the nature of the business, self-employed individuals must add any income derived from investments.
    • Income from incidental or outside operations or sources should also be included in the calculation of gross income.

Understanding and accurately calculating gross income is crucial for self-employed individuals when reporting income for tax purposes. It’s essential to distinguish between service-based businesses and those involving the sale of goods to determine the appropriate method for calculating gross income. This information aids in fulfilling tax obligations and maintaining accurate financial records.

Tax Obligations for Deceased Persons

If you are dealing with the tax affairs of a deceased individual (a decedent) who passed away in 2023, certain considerations and filing requirements apply. Here are important points to note:

  1. Filing Income Tax Return for a Decedent:
    • You must file an income tax return for a decedent if:
      • Your spouse passed away, or you are the executor, administrator, or legal representative.
      • The decedent met the filing requirements outlined in the relevant publication at the time of their death.
  2. Death of Spouse:
    • When determining whether to file a 2023 return after the death of a spouse, consider your spouse to be 65 or older at the end of 2023 only if they were 65 or older at the time of death.
    • Birthdate is crucial in this determination, and a person is considered to reach age 65 on the day before their 65th birthday.
    • Example: If the spouse was born on February 14, 1958, and died on February 13, 2023, they are considered age 65 at the time of death. However, if the spouse died on February 12, 2023, they are not considered age 65 at the time of death or 65 or older at the end of 2023.
  3. Death of Taxpayer:
    • If you are preparing a return for someone who died in 2023, consider the taxpayer to be 65 or older at the end of 2023 only if the taxpayer was 65 or older at the time of death.
    • Birthdate is the determining factor, and a person is considered to reach age 65 on the day before their 65th birthday.

Filing Requirements for Dependents: Overview and Responsibilities

If a person is considered a dependent, they may still be required to file an income tax return, depending on their earned income, unearned income, and gross income. Specific guidelines and responsibilities are outlined below:

  1. Table 2 and Table 3:
    • Refer to Table 2 for details on filing requirements based on earned income, unearned income, and gross income for dependents.
    • A dependent must also file if any of the situations described in Table 3 apply.
  2. Responsibility of Parent or Guardian:
    • If a dependent child is required to file an income tax return but cannot do so due to age or any other reason, a parent, guardian, or other legally responsible person must file it on behalf of the child.
    • If the child cannot sign the return, the parent or guardian must sign the child’s name followed by the words “By (your signature), parent for minor child.”
  3. Earned Income:
    • Earned income includes salaries, wages, professional fees, and other amounts received as compensation for work performed.
    • This category also includes any part of a taxable scholarship, as explained in Chapter 1 of Pub. 970.
  4. Child’s Earnings:
    • Amounts earned by a child for services performed are included in the child’s gross income, not the gross income of the parent, even if local law grants the parent the right to the earnings.
    • If the child does not pay the tax due on this income, the parent becomes liable for the tax.
  5. Unearned Income:
    • Unearned income encompasses interest, dividends, capital gains, trust distributions of interest, dividends, capital gains, and survivor annuities.
  6. Election to Report Child’s Unearned Income on Parent’s Return:
    • Parents may have the option to include their child’s interest and dividend income on their tax return, eliminating the need for the child to file a separate return.
    • Conditions for making this election include the child being under age 19 (or under age 24 if a student), having gross income only from interest and dividends, and the interest and dividend income being less than $12,500.
    • Specific requirements and conditions for making this election are detailed in Form 8814, “Parents’ Election To Report Child’s Interest and Dividends,” and its instructions.
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Understanding these guidelines is crucial for parents and guardians responsible for filing tax returns on behalf of dependents and for making informed decisions regarding the reporting of a child’s unearned income. For detailed information, consult the relevant IRS publications and forms.

Table 2. 2023 Filing Requirements for Dependents

Single DependentsNo (Age 65 or older or blind)Yes (Age 65 or older or blind)
Must File if Any of the Following Apply:
Unearned income > $1,250File if unearned income > $3,100 (or $4,950 if 65 or older and blind)File if unearned income > $1,250 (or $4,950 if 65 or older and blind)
Earned income > $13,850Earned income > $15,700 (or $17,550 if 65 or older and blind)Earned income > $13,850 (or $16,850 if 65 or older and blind)
Gross income > Larger of:Gross income > Larger of:Gross income > Larger of:
– $1,250 or– $3,100 (or $4,950 if 65 or older and blind)– $1,250 or
– Earned income (up to $13,450) + $400– Earned income (up to $13,450) + $2,250 ($4,100 if 65 or older and blind)– Earned income (up to $13,450) + $400
Married DependentsNo (Age 65 or older or blind)Yes (Age 65 or older or blind)
Must File if Any of the Following Apply:
Gross income >= $5 and spouse files separate return and itemizes deductionsGross income > $1,250Gross income > $5 and spouse files separate return and itemizes deductions
Unearned income > $1,250Unearned income > $2,750 (or $4,250 if 65 or older and blind)Unearned income > $1,250 (or $4,250 if 65 or older and blind)
Earned income > $13,850Earned income > $15,350 (or $16,850 if 65 or older and blind)Earned income > $13,850 (or $16,850 if 65 or older and blind)
Gross income > Larger of:Gross income > Larger of:Gross income > Larger of:
– $1,250 or– $2,750 (or $4,250 if 65 or older and blind)– $1,250 or
– Earned income (up to $13,450) + $400– Earned income (up to $13,450) + $1,900 ($3,400 if 65 or older and blind)– Earned income (up to $13,450) + $400


  • Unearned income includes taxable interest, ordinary dividends, capital gain distributions, unemployment compensation, taxable social security benefits, pensions, annuities, and distributions of unearned income from a trust.
  • Earned income includes salaries, wages, tips, professional fees, and taxable scholarship and fellowship grants.
  • Gross income is the total of unearned and earned income.
  • If gross income is $4,700 or more, the individual generally cannot be claimed as a dependent unless they qualify as a qualifying child (refer to Dependents for details).
  • Specific conditions and details for filing requirements are outlined in the corresponding sections for each category.

Table 3. Other Situations When You Must File a 2023 Return

You are required to file a tax return if any of the following conditions apply to your financial situation:

  1. Special Taxes on Schedule 2 (Form 1040): a. Alternative minimum tax. b. Additional tax on a qualified plan, including an individual retirement arrangement (IRA), or other tax-favored account. c. Social security or Medicare tax on tips not reported to your employer or on wages received from an employer who didn’t withhold these taxes. d. Uncollected social security, Medicare, or railroad retirement tax on tips reported to your employer or on group-term life insurance, along with additional taxes on health savings accounts. e. Household employment taxes. f. Recapture taxes.
  2. Distributions from Tax-Favored Accounts:
    • You (or your spouse if filing jointly) received Archer MSA, Medicare Advantage MSA, or health savings account distributions.
  3. Net Earnings from Self-Employment:
    • You had net earnings from self-employment of at least $400.
  4. Church Wages:
    • You had wages of $108.28 or more from a church or qualified church-controlled organization that is exempt from employer social security and Medicare taxes.
  5. Advance Payments of the Premium Tax Credit:
    • Advance payments of the premium tax credit were made for you, your spouse, or a dependent who enrolled in coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Form(s) 1095-A should have been received, indicating the amount of advance payments.
  6. Section 965 Tax Liability:
    • You are required to include amounts in income under section 965, or you have a net tax liability under section 965 that you are paying in installments under section 965(h) or deferred by making an election under section 965(i).

Who Should File

Even if you are not required to file a tax return, there are certain situations in which it is advisable to file. Filing a return can be beneficial if:

  1. Income Tax Withheld:
    • You had income tax withheld from your pay.
  2. Estimated Tax Payments:
    • You made estimated tax payments for the year or had any overpayment from the previous year applied to this year’s estimated tax.
  3. Earned Income Credit (EIC):
    • You qualify for the earned income credit. Refer to Pub. 596 for more information on eligibility and claiming the earned income credit.
  4. Additional Child Tax Credit:
    • You qualify for the additional child tax credit. Detailed information can be found in the Instructions for Form 1040.
  5. American Opportunity Credit:
    • You qualify for the refundable American Opportunity Credit. Review Form 8863 for eligibility criteria and credit details.
  6. Credit for Federal Tax on Fuels:
    • You qualify for the credit for federal tax on fuels. Explore eligibility and application procedures in Form 4136.
  7. Premium Tax Credit:
    • You qualify for the premium tax credit. Details on eligibility and claiming the credit can be found in Form 8962.

Additionally, even if you are not obligated to file a return, consider doing so if you meet the following criteria:

  • Form 1099-B Received:
    • You received a Form 1099-B, Proceeds From Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions (or substitute statement).
    • The amount in box 1d of Form 1099-B, when added to your other gross income, meets the filing requirement specified in Table 1 or Table 2 for your filing status.
    • Box 1e of Form 1099-B is blank.

Filing a return under these circumstances may prevent you from receiving a notice from the IRS and could potentially result in a refund.

Benefits of Filing:

  1. Get Money Back: You may be eligible for a refund, especially if taxes were withheld from your paycheck.
  2. Avoid Interest and Penalties: Filing on time and paying any owed tax by the deadline can help you avoid interest and penalties.
  3. Protect Your Credit: Timely and accurate filing can prevent a lien on your credit, improving your ability to secure loans.
  4. Financial Aid: An accurate tax return facilitates applying for financial aid to cover education expenses.
  5. Build Social Security Benefits: Reporting self-employment income ensures it is included in your Social Security benefit calculation.
  6. Accurate Income Picture: Lenders use tax returns to determine loan terms, so accurate filings can result in better interest rates.
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