The most common status categories for tax filing are:
Single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, and qualifying widow or widower with dependent child or children.
Then you can have higher limits, if you have attained age 65 or higher. You have lower limits if you are married but files separately. Also, your limits are low if you did not live with your spouse at the end of 2010.
The minimum 2010 gross income liable to file tax returns is as follows for each of the filing categories. You have to file a tax return if your gross income touched that figure or goes above it.
Filing status: SINGLE
If your age at the end of 2010 was under 65= $ 9,350
If you were 65 or older= $10,750
Filing status: MARRIED FILING SEPARATELY
If both spouses were under 65 = $18,700
If only one spouse was 65 or older = $19,800
If both spouses were 65 or older = $20,900
Filing status: MARRIED FILING SEPARATELY
Any age = $ 3,650
Filing status: HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD
If your age at the end of year 2010 was under 65=$12,050
If you were 65 or older =$13,450
Filing status: qualifying WIDOW or WIDOWER WITH DEPENDENT CHILD
If your age at the end of year 2010 was under 65 = $15,050
If you were 65 or older= $16,150
If you DID NOT LIVE WITH YOUR SPOUSE at the end of 2010 (or on the date your spouse died)
Any age = $3,650
Again remember, if your gross income in the year 2010 was equal to the dollar figure stated for your category or above it , you have to file a federal income tax return.
That brings us to the question, what is GROSS INCOME?
Gross income means all income you received in the form of money, goods, property, and services that is not exempt from tax, including any income from sources outside the United States or from the sale of your main home (even if you can exclude part or all of it).
Are SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS included in calculating gross income?
Social security benefits are not usually included, EXCEPT when
(a) you are married filing a separate return and you lived with your spouse at any time during 2010
(b) one-half of your social security benefits plus your other gross income and any tax-exempt interest is more than $25,000 ($32,000 if married filing jointly).
In these cases, you will have to calculate the taxable part of social security benefits following special instructions for Form 1040 or its variant you will be using.
Is UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION taxable?
Unfortunately so at this time, as the Congress did not pass legislation to extend this tax benefit. Thus the exclusion from income up to $2,400 in unemployment compensation available in previous years is no longer available.
At the time of writing this article the position is this: all unemployment compensation you received in 2010 is taxable.
Important : Some of the EXPIRED deductions and exemptions may be reinstated by the Congress soon. So before you file your tax return, make sure whether the Unemployment Compensation exclusion was also reinstated by the Congress.
Have you attained age 65?
As evident from the above minimums, filers 65 or older are granted higher limits. So, doubts can arise regarding eligibility for some of those who turned 65 in the year 2010.
Remember, you are considered 65 years old on the day before your 65th birthday.
If your 65th birthday is on January 1, 2011, you are considered 65 for 2010.
If you were born on January 1, 1946, you are considered to be age 65 at the end of 2010.
When should you file your tax return?
For this year, there is a change of date, it is not April 15th.
You have to file your 2010 income tax return by April 18, 2011.
What to do if, due to unavoidable circumstances, you are not able to file your tax return by April 18,2011?
You may be able to get Automatic 6-Month Extension by filing Form 4868. After that, you can file your return any time before the 6-month the extension period ends. For this year the last date appears to be October 17, 2011.
But, REMEMBER, getting Automatic Extension for filing up to October doesn’t mean that your taxes are not due by the April filing date. You will owe interest for the unpaid period. In some cases you may have to pay additional penalties too.
PLEASE NOTE: This article is for information purposes only and deals only with the general category situations a taxpayer usually belongs to. There are special situations where some incomes need to be reported even if the gross income is below the above limits. There are also special rules for surviving spouses, executors, administrators, legal representatives, U.S. citizens and residents living outside the United States, residents of Puerto Rico, and individuals with income from U.S. possessions. For the latest updates and information, always refer to resources provided by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).