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Publication 554

Chapter 1
2012 Filing Requirements(p4)

If income tax was withheld from your pay, or if you qualify for the earned income credit, the additional child tax credit, the health coverage tax credit, the refundable credit for prior year minimum tax, or the American opportunity credit, you should file a return to get a refund even if you are not otherwise required to file a return.
Do not file a federal income tax return, if you do not meet the filing requirements and are not due a refund. If you need assistance to determine if you need to file a federal income tax return for 2012, go to and under the tab Tools, click on Use the Interactive Tax Assistant, then under Popular Topics click on Do I Need to File a Tax Return?

General Requirements(p4)

If you are a U.S. citizen or resident, you must file a return if your gross income for the year was at least the amount shown on the appropriate line in Table 1-1. For other filing requirements, see the instructions for Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040-EZ, and Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information, or go to If you were a nonresident alien at any time during the year, the filing requirements that apply to you may be different from those that apply to U.S. citizens. See Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.

Table 1-1.  2012 Filing Requirements Chart for Most Taxpayers

Note. You must file a return if your gross income was at least the amount shown in the last column.

IF your filing status is. . .AND at the end of 2012
you were*. . .
THEN file a return if your gross income** was at least. . .
Singleunder 65$ 9,750
65 or older 11,200
Head of householdunder 65 12,500
65 or older13,950
Married filing jointly***under 65 (both spouses)19,500
65 or older (one spouse)20,650
65 or older (both spouses)21,800
Married filing separatelyany age3,800
Qualifying widow(er)
with dependent child
under 6515,700
65 or older16,850
*If you were born before January 2, 1948, you are considered to be 65 or older at the end of 2012.
**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 separately and you lived with your spouse at any time in 2012 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 Publication 915, Social Security Benefits and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits, 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 2012 (or on the date your spouse died) and your gross income was at least $3,800, you must file a return regardless of your age.

Gross income.(p4)

Gross income is all income you receive in the form of money, goods, property, and services that is not exempt from tax. If you are married and live with your spouse in a community property state, half of any income defined by state law as community income may be considered yours. The community property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. 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). For more information about community property, see Publication 555, Community Property.
For more information on what to include in gross income, see chapter 2.
Self-employed persons.(p4)
If you are self-employed in a business that provides services (where the production, purchase, or sale of merchandise is not an income-producing factor), gross income from that business is the gross receipts.
If you are self-employed in a business involving manufacturing, merchandising, or mining, gross income from that business is the total sales minus the cost of goods sold. Then, to this figure, you add any income from investments and from incidental or outside operations or sources. See Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Business, for more information.


If you could be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer (that is, you meet the dependency tests in Publication 501), special filing requirements apply. See Publication 501.


A personal representative of a decedent's estate can be an executor, administrator, or anyone who is in charge of the decedent's property.
If you are acting as the personal representative of a person who died during the year, you may have to file a final return for that decedent. You also have other duties, such as notifying the IRS that you are acting as the personal representative. Form 56, Notice Concerning Fiduciary Relationship, is available for this purpose.
When you file a return for the decedent, either as the personal representative or as the surviving spouse, you should write "DECEASED," the decedent's name, and the date of death across the top of the tax return.
If no personal representative has been appointed by the due date for filing the return, the surviving spouse (on a joint return) should sign the return and write in the signature area "Filing as surviving spouse."
For more information, see Publication 559, Survivors, Executors, and Administrators.

Surviving spouse.(p5)

If you are the surviving spouse, the year your spouse died is the last year for which you can file a joint return with that spouse. After that, if you do not remarry, you must file as a qualifying widow(er) with dependent child, head of household, or single. For more information about each of these filing statuses, see Publication 501.
If you remarry before the end of the year in which your spouse died, a final joint return with the deceased spouse cannot be filed. You can, however, file a joint return with your new spouse. In that case, the filing status of your deceased spouse for his or her final return is married filing separately.
The level of income that requires you to file an income tax return changes when your filing status changes (see Table 1-1). Even if you and your deceased spouse were not required to file a return for several years, you may have to file a return for tax years after the year of death. For example, if your filing status changes from filing jointly in 2011 to single in 2012 because of the death of your spouse, and your gross income is $17,500 for both years, you must file a return for 2012 even though you did not have to file a return for 2011.