Question

Do I have to file a tax return for my dependent?

Answer

If you have a dependent who’s earning income, good news — you can still claim them as a dependent so long as other dependent rules still apply. Your dependent’s earned income doesn’t go on your return. Filing tax returns for children is easy in that respect.

If you’re the dependent in question, you might be asking, “Do I file taxes if I’m a dependent?” Even if you’re a child, filing a tax return might be necessary depending on your income and circumstances. In short, you’ll want to file your own dependent tax return to claim your own W-2 income if:

If you’re claimed as a dependent, you must file if your income is more than the standard deduction allowed for dependents:

  • Your earned income is more than $12,200, which is the standard deduction for a single filer.
  • Your unearned income (e.g. investment) is more than $1,050.
  • Your gross income is more than the greater of:
    • $1,100
    • Your earned income (up to $11,850) plus $350

Income Info for Filing as a Dependent on Someone Else’s Return

Depending on your age, marital status, and income, you might have to file taxes, even if you’re a dependent on someone else’s return. 

Income falls into three categories: 

  • Earned income
    • Salaries
    • Wages
    • Tips
    • Professional fees
    • Taxable scholarship and fellowship grants
  • Unearned income
    • Taxable interest
    • Ordinary dividends
    • Capital gain distributions
    • Unemployment compensation
    • Taxable social security benefits, pensions, and annuities
  • Gross income 
    • Total of your earned and unearned income

When Should You File a Return as a Dependent?

Even if you’re filing as a dependent or a dependent child, you must file a tax return if: 

  • You’re a single or married dependent under age 65 with:
    • Unearned income more than $1,100
    • Earned income more than $12,200
    • Gross income more than $1,100 or earned income up to $11,850 — plus $350
    • Gross income of at least $5, and you had a spouse who filed a separate return and itemized deductions (if married)
  • You’re a single dependent over age 65 with:
    • Unearned income more than $2,750, or $4,400 if over 65 and blind
    • Earned income more than $13,850, or $15,500 if over 65 and blind
    • Gross income more than the larger of:
      • $2,750, or $4,400 if over 65 and blind
      • Your earned income (up to $11,850) plus $2,000, or $3,650 if over age 65 and blind
  • You’re a married dependent over age 65 with:
    • Unearned income more than $2,400, or $3,700 if over 65 and blind
    • Earned income more than $13,500, or $14,800 if over 65 and blind
    • Gross income of at least $5, and you had a spouse who filed a separate return and itemized deductions
    • Gross income more than the larger of 
      • $2,400. or $3,700 if over 65 and blind
      • Your earned income (up to $11,850) plus $1,650, or $2,950 if over 65 and blind

Even if you’re not required to file a return, you might want to file a tax return as a dependent. Filing a tax return for your child or other dependents will allow them to get a refund of any tax withheld. 

Related Topics

Related Resources

7 Ways to Generate Passive Income

Earn extra income by setting up a plan that will earn money as time goes on – even when you are not physically working. Learn more at H&R Block.

Average Cost Basis – Mutual Funds

Learn more about the average cost basis method of selling shares and get tax answers at H&R Block.

How Renting Out Your Extra Bedrooms Affects Your Taxes

Thinking about renting out a room in your home? Learn more about the potential tax implications with the experts at H&R Block.

Celebrating Super Bowl 50 and Breaking Down the “Jock Tax”

California levies a jock tax on professional athlete income. And it's not the only state. Learn more about taxes on athletes with the experts at H&R Block.