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Saturday July 4, 2020

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Helpful Tips for Tax Filing Season

What are the IRS income tax filing requirements for seniors this year? I did not file a tax return last year because my 2018 income was below the filing requirements, but I got a part-time job late in 2019, so I am wondering if I need to file this year.

Whether you are required to file a federal income tax return this year depends not only on how much you earned last year (2019), but also the source of that income, as well as your age and your filing status.

Here is a rundown of the IRS tax filing requirement thresholds for the 2019 tax year. For most people, this is pretty straightforward. If your 2019 gross income – which includes all taxable income, except your Social Security benefits, unless you are married and filing separately – was below the threshold for your filing status and age, you may not have to file. But if it is over the threshold, you are required to file.
  • Single: $12,200 ($13,850 if you reached age 65 before Jan. 1, 2020)
  • Married filing jointly: $24,400 ($25,700 if you or your spouse are 65 or older; or $27,000 if you are both over age 65)
  • Married filing separately: $12,200 at any age
  • Head of household: $18,350 ($20,000 if age 65 or older)
  • Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child: $24,400 ($25,700 if age 65 or older)
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 them to mail you a free copy of the "Tax Guide for Seniors" (publication 554) or see

Check Here Too

There are some other financial situations that can require you to file a tax return, even if your gross income falls below the IRS filing requirements. For example, if you earned more than $400 from self-employment in 2019, owe any special taxes like an alternative minimum tax or get premium tax credits because you, your spouse or a dependent is enrolled in a Health Insurance Marketplace plan, you will need to file.

You will also need to file if you are receiving Social Security benefits and one-half of your benefits plus your other gross income and any tax-exempt interest exceeds $25,000, or $32,000 if you are married and filing jointly.

To figure all this out, the IRS offers an interactive tax assistant tool on their website that asks a series of questions that will help you determine if you are required to file or if you should file because you are due a refund. It takes approximately 15 minutes to complete.

You can access this tool at – click on the "Do I Need to File a Tax Return?" link. You can get assistance over the phone by calling the IRS helpline at 800-829-1040. You can also get face-to-face help at a Taxpayer Assistance Center. See or call 800-829-1040 to locate a center near you.

Check Your State

If you are not required to file a federal tax return this year, do not assume that you are also excused from filing state income taxes. The rules for your state might be very different. Check with your state tax agency before concluding that you are entirely in the clear.

Tax Preparation Help

If you find that you do need to file a tax return this year, you can get help through the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program. Sponsored by the IRS, the TCE provides free tax preparation and counseling to middle and low-income taxpayers, age 60 and older. Call 800-906-9887 or visit to locate a service near you.

Check with AARP, a participant in the TCE program that provides free tax preparation at more than 4,800 sites nationwide. To locate an AARP Tax-Aide site call 888-227-7669 or visit You do not have to be an AARP member to use this service.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published February 7, 2020
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