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previous page Previous Page: Publication 17 - Your Federal Income Tax - The Income Tax Return
next page Next Page: Publication 17 - Your Federal Income Tax - Which Form Should I Use?
 Use previous pagenext page to find additional occurrences of topic items.Index for this Publication
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031841

Chapter 1
Filing Information(p5)

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What's New(p5)


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taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031843

Who must file.(p5)

Generally, the amount of income you can receive before you must file a return has been increased. See Table 1-1, Table 1-2, and Table 1-3 for the specific amounts.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100090402

Filing late.(p5)

If you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 (increased from $100) or 100% of the unpaid tax. See Civil Penalties, later.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031846

Mailing your return.(p5)

You may be mailing your return to a different address this year because the IRS has changed the filing location for several areas. If you received an envelope with your tax package, please use it. Otherwise, see Where Do I File, later in this chapter.

Reminders(p5)


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taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031848

Alternative filing methods.(p5)

Rather than filing a return on paper, you may be able to file electronically using IRS e-file. Create your own personal identification number (PIN) and file a completely paperless tax return. For more information, see Does My Return Have To Be on Paper, later.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031849

Change of address.(p5)

If you change your address, you should notify the IRS. See Change of Address, later, under What Happens After I File.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031850

Enter your social security number.(p5)

You must enter your social security number (SSN) in the spaces provided on your tax return. If you file a joint return, enter the SSNs in the same order as the names.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031851

Direct deposit of refund.(p5)

Instead of getting a paper check, you may be able to have your refund deposited directly into your account at a bank or other financial institution. See Direct Deposit under Refunds, later. If you choose direct deposit of your refund, you may be able to split the refund among two or three accounts.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031852

Alternative payment methods.(p5)

If you owe additional tax, you may be able to pay electronically. See How To Pay, later.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031853

Installment agreement.(p5)

If you cannot pay the full amount due with your return, you may ask to make monthly installment payments. See Installment Agreement, later, under Amount You Owe. You may be able to apply online for a payment agreement if you owe federal tax, interest, and penalties.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031854

Automatic 6-month extension.(p5)

You can get an automatic 6-month extension to file your tax return if, no later than the date your return is due, you file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. See Automatic Extension, later.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031855

Service in combat zone.(p5)

You are allowed extra time to take care of your tax matters if you are a member of the Armed Forces who served in a combat zone, or if you served in the combat zone in support of the Armed Forces. See Individuals Serving in Combat Zone, later, under When Do I Have To File.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031856

Adoption taxpayer identification number.(p5)

If a child has been placed in your home for purposes of legal adoption and you will not be able to get a social security number for the child in time to file your return, you may be able to get an adoption taxpayer identification number (ATIN). For more information, see Social Security Number, later.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031857

Taxpayer identification number for aliens.(p5)

If you or your dependent is a nonresident or resident alien who does not have and is not eligible to get a social security number, file Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, with the IRS. For more information, see Social Security Number, later.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100055262

Frivolous tax submissions.(p5)

The IRS has published a list of positions that are identified as frivolous. The penalty for filing a frivolous tax return is $5,000. Also, the $5,000 penalty will apply to other specified frivolous submissions. For more information, see Civil Penalties, later.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#TXMP02b45e2b
This chapter discusses the following topics.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031858

Do I Have To  
File a Return?(p6)


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You must file a federal income tax return if you are a citizen or resident of the United States or a resident of Puerto Rico and you meet the filing requirements for any of the following categories that apply to you.
  1. Individuals in general. (There are 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.)
  2. Dependents.
  3. Certain children under age 19 or full-time students.
  4. Self-employed persons.
  5. Aliens.
The filing requirements for each category are explained in this chapter.
The filing requirements apply even if you do not owe tax.
Deposit
Even if you do not have to file a return, it may be to your advantage to do so. See Who Should File, later.
EIC
File only one federal income tax return for the year regardless of how many jobs you had, how many Forms W-2 you received, or how many states you lived in during the year. Do not file more than one original return for the same year, even if you have not gotten your refund or have not heard from the IRS since you filed.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031861

Individuals—In General(p6)


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If you are a U.S. citizen or resident, whether you must file a return depends on three factors:
  1. Your gross income,
  2. Your filing status, and
  3. Your age.
To find out whether you must file, see Table 1-1, Table 1-2, and Table 1-3. Even if no table shows that you must file, you may need to file to get money back. (See Who Should File, later.)
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031862

Gross income.(p6)


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This includes all income you receive in the form of money, goods, property, and services that is not exempt from tax. It also includes income from sources outside the United States (even if you can exclude all or part of it). Include part of your social security benefits if:
  1. You were married, filing a separate return, and you lived with your spouse at any time during 2008; or
  2. Half of your social security benefits plus your other gross income is more than $25,000 ($32,000 if married filing jointly).
If either (1) or (2) applies, see the instructions for Form 1040 or 1040A, or Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits, to figure the social security benefits you must include in gross income.
Common types of income are discussed in Part Two of this publication.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031863

Community income.(p6)
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If you are married and your permanent home is in a community property state, half of any income described by state law as community income may be considered yours. This affects your federal taxes, including whether you must file if you do not file a joint return with your spouse. See Publication 555, Community Property, for more information.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031864

Self-employed individuals.(p6)
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If you are self-employed, your gross income includes the amount on line 7 of Schedule C (Form 1040), Profit or Loss From Business; line 1 of Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040), Net Profit From Business; and line 11 of Schedule F (Form 1040), Profit or Loss From Farming. See Self-Employed Persons, later, for more information about your filing requirements.
EIC
If you do not report all of your self-employment income, your social security benefits may be lower when you retire.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031866

Filing status.(p6)


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Your filing status depends on whether you are single or married and on your family situation. Your filing status is determined on the last day of your tax year, which is December 31 for most taxpayers. See chapter 2 for an explanation of each filing status.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031867

Age.(p6)


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If you are 65 or older at the end of the year, you generally can have a higher amount of gross income than other taxpayers before you must file. See Table 1-1. You are considered 65 on the day before your 65th birthday. For example, if your 65th birthday is on January 1, 2009, you are considered 65 for 2008.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#f10311g101
Table 1-1. 2008 Filing Requirements for Most Taxpayers
IF your filing status is... AND at the end of 2008 you   
 were...*
 THEN file a return if  
 your gross income
 was at least...**
single under 65$ 8,950 
  65 or older$10,300 
married filing jointly*** under 65 (both spouses)$17,900 
  65 or older (one spouse)$18,950 
  65 or older (both spouses)$20,000 
married filing separately any age$ 3,500 
head of household under 65$11,500 
  65 or older$12,850 
qualifying widow(er) with under 65$14,400 
dependent child 65 or older$15,450 
*If you were born on January 1, 1944, you are considered to be age 65 at the end of 2008.
**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 (even if you may exclude part or all of it). Do not include any social security benefits unless (a) you are married filing a separate return and you lived with your spouse at any time during 2008 or (b) one-half of your social security benefits plus your other gross income is more than $25,000 ($32,000 if married filing jointly). If (a) or (b) applies, see the instructions for Form 1040 or 1040A or Publication 915 to figure the taxable part of social security benefits you must include in gross income.
***If you did not live with your spouse at the end of 2008 (or on the date your spouse died) and your gross income was at least $3,500, you must file a return regardless of your age.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031868

Surviving Spouses,  
Executors, Administrators,  
and Legal Representatives(p6)


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Surviving Spouses, Executors, Administrators, and Legal Representatives

You must file a final return for a decedent (a person who died) if both of the following are true.
For more information on rules for filing a decedent's final return, see Publication 559, Survivors, Executors, and Administrators.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031869

U.S. Citizens and Residents Living Outside the United States(p6)


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If you are a U.S. citizen or resident living outside the United States, you must file a return if you meet the filing requirements. For information on special tax rules that may apply to you, see Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad. It is available at most U.S. embassies and consulates. Also see How To Get Tax Help in the back of this publication.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031870

Residents of Puerto Rico(p6)


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Generally, if you are a U.S. citizen and a resident of Puerto Rico, you must file a U.S. income tax return if you meet the filing requirements. This is in addition to any legal requirement you may have to file an income tax return for Puerto Rico.
If you are a resident of Puerto Rico for the entire year, gross income does not include income from sources within Puerto Rico, except for amounts received as an employee of the United States or a U.S. agency. If you receive income from Puerto Rican sources that is not subject to U.S. tax, you must reduce your standard deduction. As a result, the amount of income you must have before you are required to file a U.S. income tax return is lower than the applicable amount in Table 1-1 or Table 1-2. For more information, see Publication 570, Tax Guide for Individuals With Income From U.S. Possessions.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031871

Individuals With Income From  
U.S. Possessions(p6)


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If you had income from Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, special rules may apply when determining whether you must file a U.S. federal income tax return. In addition, you may have to file a return with the individual island government. See Publication 570 for more information.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031872

Dependents(p6)


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If you are a dependent (one who meets the dependency tests in chapter 3), see Table 1-2 to find whether you must file a return. You also must file if your situation is described in Table 1-3.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031873

Responsibility of parent.(p6)


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Responsibility of parent

Generally, a child is responsible for filing his or her own tax return and for paying any tax on the return. But if a dependent child who must file an income tax return cannot file it for any reason, such as age, then a parent, guardian, or other legally responsible person must file it for the child. If the child cannot sign the return, the parent or guardian must sign the child's name followed by the words "By (your signature), parent for minor child."
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031874

Child's earnings.(p6)
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Amounts a child earns by performing services are his or her gross income. This is true even if under local law the child's parents have the right to the earnings and may actually have received them. If the child does not pay the tax due on this income, the parent is liable for the tax.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031875

Certain Children Under Age 19 or Full-Time Students(p7)


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Certain Children Under Age 19 or Full-Time Students

If a child's only income is interest and dividends (including capital gain distributions and Alaska Permanent Fund dividends), the child was under age 19 at the end of 2008 or was a full-time student under age 24 at the end of 2008, and certain other conditions are met, a parent can elect to include the child's income on the parent's return. If this election is made, the child does not have to file a return. See Parent's Election To Report Child's Interest and Dividends in chapter 31.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031876

Self-Employed Persons(p7)


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You are self-employed if you:
Self-employment can include work in addition to your regular full-time business activities, such as certain part-time work you do at home or in addition to your regular job.
You must file a return if your gross income is at least as much as the filing requirement amount for your filing status and age (shown in Table 1-1). Also, you must file Form 1040 and Schedule SE (Form 1040), Self-Employment Tax, if:
  1. Your net earnings from self-employment (excluding church employee income) were $400 or more, or
  2. You had church employee income of $108.28 or more. (See Table 1-3.)
Use Schedule SE (Form 1040) to figure your self-employment tax. Self-employment tax is comparable to the social security and Medicare tax withheld from an employee's wages. For more information about this tax, see Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Business.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031877

Employees of foreign governments or international organizations.(p7)
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If you are a U.S. citizen who works in the United States for an international organization, a foreign government, or a wholly owned instrumentality of a foreign government, and your employer is not required to withhold social security and Medicare taxes from your wages, you must include your earnings from services performed in the United States when figuring your net earnings from self-employment.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031878

Ministers.(p7)
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You must include income from services you performed as a minister when figuring your net earnings from self-employment, unless you have an exemption from self-employment tax. This also applies to Christian Science practitioners and members of a religious order who have not taken a vow of poverty. For more information, see Publication 517, Social Security and Other Information for Members of the Clergy and Religious Workers.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#f10311g1.02

Table 1-2. 2008 Filing Requirements for Dependents

See chapter 3 to find out if someone can claim you as a dependent.

If your parents (or someone else) can claim you as a dependent, and any of the situations below apply to you, you must file a return. (See Table 1-3 for other situations when you must file.)
 In this table, earned income includes salaries, wages, tips, and professional fees. It also includes taxable scholarship and fellowship grants. (See Scholarships and fellowships in chapter 12.) Unearned income includes investment-type income such as taxable interest, ordinary dividends, and capital gain distributions. It also includes unemployment compensation, taxable social security benefits, pensions, annuities, cancellation of debt, and distributions of unearned income from a trust. Gross income is the total of your earned and unearned income.
Single dependents—Were you either age 65 or older or blind?
No.You must file a return if any of the following apply.
  Your unearned income was more than $900.
  Your earned income was more than $5,450.
  Your gross income was more than the larger of:
   $900, or
   Your earned income (up to $5,150) plus $300.
Yes.You must file a return if any of the following apply.
  Your unearned income was more than $2,250 ($3,600 if 65 or older and blind).
  Your earned income was more than $6,800 ($8,150 if 65 or older and blind).
  Your gross income was more than the larger of:
   $2,250 ($3,600 if 65 or older and blind), or
   Your earned income (up to $5,150) plus $1,650 ($3,000 if 65 or older and blind).
Married dependents—Were you either age 65 or older or blind?
No.You must file a return if any of the following apply.
  Your unearned income was more than $900.
  Your earned income was more than $5,450.
  Your gross income was at least $5 and your spouse files a separate return and itemizes deductions.
  Your gross income was more than the larger of:
   $900, or
   Your earned income (up to $5,150) plus $300.
Yes.You must file a return if any of the following apply.
  Your unearned income was more than $1,950 ($3,000 if 65 or older and blind).
  Your earned income was more than $6,500 ($7,550 if 65 or older and blind).
  Your gross income was at least $5 and your spouse files a separate return and itemizes deductions.
  Your gross income was more than the larger of:
   $1,950 ($3,000 if 65 or older and blind), or
   Your earned income (up to $5,150) plus $1,350 ($2,400 if 65 or older and blind).
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031879

Aliens(p7)


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Your status as an alien—resident, nonresident, or dual-status—determines whether and how you must file an income tax return.
The rules used to determine your alien status are discussed in Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031880

Resident alien.(p7)


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If you are a resident alien for the entire year, you must file a tax return following the same rules that apply to U.S. citizens. Use the forms discussed in this publication.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031881

Nonresident alien.(p7)


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If you are a nonresident alien, the rules and tax forms that apply to you are different from those that apply to U.S. citizens and resident aliens. See Publication 519 to find out if U.S. income tax laws apply to you and which forms you should file.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031882

Dual-status taxpayer.(p7)


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Dual-status taxpayer.

If you are a resident alien for part of the tax year and a nonresident alien for the rest of the year, you are a dual-status taxpayer. Different rules apply for each part of the year. For information on dual-status taxpayers, see Publication 519.
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink100031883

Who Should File(p7)


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Even if you do not have to file, you should file a federal income tax return to get money back if any of the following conditions apply.
  1. You had federal income tax withheld from your pay or made estimated tax payments.
  2. You qualify for the earned income credit. See chapter 36 for more information.
  3. You qualify for the additional child tax credit. See chapter 34 for more information.
  4. You qualify for the health coverage tax credit. See chapter 37 for more information.
  5. You qualify for the refundable credit for prior year minimum tax.
  6. You qualify for the recovery rebate credit. See chapter 37 for more information.
previous pagePrevious Page: Publication 17 - Your Federal Income Tax - The Income Tax Return
next pageNext Page: Publication 17 - Your Federal Income Tax - Which Form Should I Use?
 Use previous pagenext page to find additional occurrences of topic items.Index for this Publication