Do I Need to File a 2017 Tax Return?

Updated for tax year 2017

It’s time to file your taxes again! Or is it?

Not everyone is required to file a federal income tax return every year – even if they had some taxable income.

Ask yourself these four questions to determine if you should file a return for tax year 2017.

Does my gross income meet the filing thresholds?

The need to file a federal income tax return starts with your gross income – otherwise defined as the total income you earn before tax deductions. If your gross income is at or above a certain amount, you must file a return.

In order to know what your income threshold is, you need to know your filing status.

2017 income tax bracket chart

Some taxpayers are required to file a return to reconcile or report certain items – even if they didn’t make the minimum amount of income necessary to file. For example, you must file if you need to report:

  • Special taxes. For example, if you need to pay FICA tax on unreported tip money, you need to file a return. Additionally, you must file to report household employment taxes or additional taxes on an IRA or another tax-favored account.
  • Distributions received from a tax-advantaged medical expense account. This includes health savings accounts, medical savings accounts, and Medicare Advantage MSA distributions.
  • Self-employment income. If you have $400 or more in net self-employment income (income after business expenses) you need to file a return because you’re required to pay income tax on that amount.

Did my child earn income?

If your child can be claimed as a dependent on your tax return, and he has earned or unearned income, he may be required to file a return of his own. That is true even if you do not actually claim him as a dependent.

Any dependent you have must file a tax return if one of the following is true for their income in 2016:

  • Unearned income, such as interest and dividends, was over $1,050, or
  • Earned income, such as wages, was more than $6,300, or
  • Gross income is more than the larger of $1,050 or total earned income (up to $6,300) plus $350.

Did I have any tax withheld from my pay?

Even if your income level doesn’t require you to file a tax return, it’s best to file if you had any federal or state income tax withheld from your pay.

In many cases, you’ll likely receive all the income tax withheld from your pay in the form of a tax refund.

About Sally Herigstad

Sally Herigstad is a certified public accountant and personal finance columnist and author of Help! I Can't Pay My Bills, Surviving a Financial Crisis (St. Martin's Griffin). She writes regularly at,,, RedPlum, and MSN Money. She is an experienced speaker and a member of Toastmasters International. Follow Sally on Twitter.

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