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IRS.gov Website
Publication 17
taxmap/pub17/p17-002.htm#en_us_publink1000170357

Chapter 1
Filing Information(p4)

What's New(p4)


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Due date of return.(p4)
File your 2011 income tax return by April 17, 2012. The due date is April 17, instead of April 15, because April 15 is a Sunday and April 16 is the Emancipation Day holiday in the District of Columbia.
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Who must file.(p4)
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.
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Mailing your return.(p4)
If you file a paper return, you may be mailing it to a different address this year because the IRS has changed the filing location for several areas. See Where Do I File, later in this chapter.

Reminders(p4)


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Alternative filing methods.(p4)
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.
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Change of address.(p4)
If you change your address, you should notify the IRS. See Change of Address, later, under What Happens After I File.
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Enter your social security number.(p4)
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.
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Direct deposit of refund.(p4)
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.
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Alternative payment methods.(p4)
If you owe additional tax, you may be able to pay electronically. See How To Pay, later.
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Installment agreement.(p4)
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.
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Automatic 6-month extension.(p4)
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.
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Service in combat zone.(p4)
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.
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Adoption taxpayer identification number.(p4)
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.
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Taxpayer identification number for aliens.(p4)
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.
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Frivolous tax submissions.(p4)
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.
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This chapter discusses the following topics.
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Do I Have To
File a Return?(p5)

rule
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.
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Individuals—In General(p5)

rule
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.)
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Gross income.(p5)

rule
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 or from the sale of your main home (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 2011; or
  2. 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).
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.
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Community income.(p5)
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.
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Nevada, Washington, and California domestic partners.(p5)
A registered domestic partner in Nevada, Washington, or California (or a person in California who is married to a person of the same sex) generally must report half the combined community income of the individual and his or her domestic partner (or California same-sex spouse). See Publication 555.
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Self-employed individuals.(p5)
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 1d of Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040), Net Profit From Business; and line 9 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.
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Filing status.(p5)

rule
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.
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Age.(p5)

rule
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, 2012, you are considered 65 for 2011.
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Table 1-1. 2011 Filing Requirements for Most Taxpayers

IF your filing status is... AND at the end of 2011 you   
 were...*
 THEN file a return if  
 your gross income
 was at least...**
single under 65$ 9,500 
  65 or older$10,950 
married filing jointly*** under 65 (both spouses)$19,000 
  65 or older (one spouse)$20,150 
  65 or older (both spouses)$21,300 
married filing separately any age$ 3,700 
head of household under 65$12,200 
  65 or older$13,650 
qualifying widow(er) with dependent child under 65$15,300 
 65 or older$16,450 
*If you were born on January 1, 1947, you are considered to be age 65 at the end of 2011.
**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). 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 2011 or (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). 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. Gross income includes gains, but not losses, reported on Form 8949. Gross income from a business means, for example, the amount on Schedule C, line 7, or Schedule F, line 9. But, in figuring gross income, do not reduce your income by any losses, including any loss on Schedule C, line 7, or Schedule F, line 9.
***If you did not live with your spouse at the end of 2011 (or on the date your spouse died) and your gross income was at least $3,700, you must file a return regardless of your age.
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Surviving Spouses,
Executors, Administrators,
and Legal Representatives(p5)

rule
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.
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U.S. Citizens and Residents Living Outside the United States(p5)

rule
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 online and at most U.S. embassies and consulates. See How To Get Tax Help in the back of this publication.
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Residents of Puerto Rico(p5)

rule
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.
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Individuals With Income From
U.S. Possessions(p5)

rule
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.
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Dependents(p5)

rule
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.
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Responsibility of parent.(p6)

rule
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."
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Child's earnings.(p6)
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.
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Certain Children Under Age 19 or Full-Time Students(p6)

rule
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 2011 or was a full-time student under age 24 at the end of 2011, 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 30.
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Self-Employed Persons(p6)

rule
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.
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Employees of foreign governments or international organizations.(p6)
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.
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Ministers.(p6)
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.
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Table 1-2. 2011 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 $950.
  Your earned income was more than $5,800.
  Your gross income was more than the larger of:
   $950, or
   Your earned income (up to $5,500) plus $300.
Yes.You must file a return if any of the following apply.
  Your unearned income was more than $2,400 ($3,850 if 65 or older and blind).
  Your earned income was more than $7,250 ($8,700 if 65 or older and blind).
  Your gross income was more than the larger of:
   $2,400 ($3,850 if 65 or older and blind), or
   Your earned income (up to $5,500) plus $1,750 ($3,200 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 $950.
  Your earned income was more than $5,800.
  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:
   $950, or
   Your earned income (up to $5,500) plus $300.
Yes.You must file a return if any of the following apply.
  Your unearned income was more than $2,100 ($3,250 if 65 or older and blind).
  Your earned income was more than $6,950 ($8,100 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:
   $2,100 ($3,250 if 65 or older and blind), or
   Your earned income (up to $5,500) plus $1,450 ($2,600 if 65 or older and blind).
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Aliens(p6)

rule
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.
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Resident alien.(p6)

rule
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.
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Nonresident alien.(p6)

rule
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.
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Dual-status taxpayer.(p6)

rule
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.
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Who Should File(p7)

rule
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 or made estimated tax payments.
  2. You qualify for the earned income credit. See chapter 35 for more information.
  3. You qualify for the additional child tax credit. See chapter 33 for more information.
  4. You qualify for the health coverage tax credit. See chapter 36 for more information.
  5. You qualify for the refundable credit for prior year minimum tax.
  6. You qualify for the first-time homebuyer credit. See chapter 36 for more information.
  7. You qualify for the American opportunity credit. See chapter 34 for more information.
  8. You qualify for the credit for federal tax on fuels. See chapter 36 for more information.
  9. You qualify for the adoption credit. See chapter 36 for more information.