DEAR SAVVY SENIOR: What are the IRS income tax filing requirements for seniors this tax season? My income dropped way down when I retired last year, so I'm wondering if I need to even file a tax return this year.
— Recently Retired
DEAR RECENTLY: Whether you are required to file a federal income tax return this year depends on your gross income as well as your filing status and age. Your gross income includes all the income you receive that is not exempt from tax, not including Social Security benefits, unless you are married and filing separately.
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 to have mailed a free copy of the “Tax Guide for Seniors” (publication 554), or go to irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p554.pdf.
Meanwhile, here's a rundown of the IRS filing requirements for this tax season. If your gross income from 2013 was lower than the amount listed in your filing status, you probably won't have to file. But if it's higher, you will.
Single: $10,000 ($11,500 if you're 65 or older by Jan. 1, 2014).
Married filing jointly: $20,000 ($21,200 if you or your spouse is 65 or older; or $22,400 if you're both over 65).
Married filing separately: $3,900 at any age.
Head of household: $12,850 ($14,350 if age 65 or older).
Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child: $16,100 ($17,300 if age 65 or older).
Be aware that there are some special financial situations that require you to file a tax return even if your gross income falls below the IRS filing requirement. For example, if you had net earnings from self-employment in 2013 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.