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IRS.gov Website
Instructions for Form 1040
taxmap/instr/i1040gi-001.htm#TXMP2472e7e7

Filing Requirements(p7)

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taxmap/instr/i1040gi-001.htm#TXMP0897669eIntroduction

These rules apply to all U.S. citizens, regardless of where they live, and resident aliens.
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Have you tried IRS e-file? It's the fastest way to get your refund and it's free if you are eligible. Visit IRS.gov for details.
taxmap/instr/i1040gi-001.htm#TXMP495233c9

Do You Have To File?(p7)

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Use Chart A, B, or C to see if you must file a return. U.S. citizens who lived in or had income from a U.S. possession should see Pub. 570. Residents of Puerto Rico can use TeleTax topic 901 to see if they must file.
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Even if you do not otherwise have to file a return, you should file one to get a refund of any federal income tax withheld. You should also file if you are eligible for any of the following credits.
  • Earned income credit.
  • Additional child tax credit.
  • American opportunity credit.
  • First-time homebuyer credit.
  • Credit for federal tax on fuels.
  • Adoption credit.
  • Refundable credit for prior year minimum tax.
  • Health coverage tax credit.
See Pub. 501 for details. Also see Pub. 501 if you do not have to file but received a Form 1099-B (or substitute statement).
taxmap/instr/i1040gi-001.htm#TXMP78a5a48d
Exception for certain children under age 19 or full-time students.(p7)
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If certain conditions apply, you can elect to include on your return the income of a child who was under age 19 at the end of 2011 or was a full-time student under age 24 at the end of 2011. To do so, use Form 8814. If you make this election, your child does not have to file a return. For details, use TeleTax topic 553 or see Form 8814.
A child born on January 1, 1988, is considered to be age 24 at the end of 2011. Do not use Form 8814 for such a child.
taxmap/instr/i1040gi-001.htm#TXMP64d93a92
Resident aliens.(p7)
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These rules also apply if you were a resident alien. Also, you may qualify for certain tax treaty benefits. See Pub. 519 for details.
taxmap/instr/i1040gi-001.htm#TXMP5af261fe
Nonresident aliens and dual-status aliens.(p7)
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These rules also apply if you were a nonresident alien or a dual-status alien and both of the following apply. See Pub. 519 for details.
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Specific rules apply to determine if you are a resident alien, nonresident alien, or dual-status alien. Most nonresident aliens and dual-status aliens have different filing requirements and may have to file Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ. Pub. 519 discusses these requirements and other information to help aliens comply with U.S. tax law, including tax treaty benefits and special rules for students and scholars.