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Do I Need to File a Tax Return for 2012

Should I File A Tax Return?

Many taxpayers wonder if they need to file a tax return every year, and in fact, filing a tax return each year may not be necessary. As long as you are not a dependent, you can determine whether you need to file a 2012 tax return (which is due in April, 2013) by comparing your gross income to the sum of your standard deduction and personal exemption. You only need to file a tax return when your income is equal to or greater than this sum since this is the amount of income you can earn each year that is automatically tax-free. However, the standard deduction is not the same for all taxpayers; the amount depends on whether your tax filing status is single, head of household, married filing jointly or married filing separately.

Filing Status and Standard Deductions

It may not be fair, but the IRS allows some taxpayers a larger standard deduction than others just based on their filing status–which can sometimes result in two taxpayers earning the same amount of income, but only one having to file a tax return. Using the 2012 tax year as an example, if your filing status is single or married filing separately, you can claim a standard deduction of $5,950. If filing as head of household, the deduction increases to $8,700. And if you are married filing jointly, then you and your spouse can claim a joint standard deduction of $11,900. So for purposes of determining whether you need to file a tax return, you can see that a single taxpayer will have to file before a married couple will.

Issues Affecting Whether You Need to File a Tax Return

After figuring out your filing status and standard deduction, you must add one personal exemption (two if filing a joint return) to it to determine whether you need to file a tax return. In 2012, one personal exemption is worth $3,800 for all taxpayers. This means that if your filing status is head of household, you only need to file a tax return when your income is equal to or greater than $12,500 ($8,700 + 3,800). But there is one more thing you need to consider. When comparing your income to the $12,500 threshold amount, you should never include income that is tax-exempt such as municipal bond interest and in most cases, your Social Security benefits. This is because tax-exempt income never shows up on your return.

IRS Reference: Instructions to Form 1040