Senior Resources » Do I Need to File a Tax Return This Year?

Do I Need to File a Tax Return This Year?

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Dear Savvy Senior,


What are the IRS income tax filing requirements for retirees this tax season? I didn’t file a tax return for the past two years because my income was below the filing threshold, but I got a part-time job late last year, so I’m wondering if I’m required to file this year.

Retired Worker 


Dear Retired,

Whether or not you are required to file a federal income tax return this year will depend on how much you earned last year (in 2023), as well as the source of the income, your age, and your filing status. 

Here’s a rundown of this tax season’s IRS tax filing requirement thresholds: 

For most people, this is pretty straightforward. If your 2023 gross income – which includes all taxable income, not counting your Social Security benefits, unless you are married and filing separately – was below the threshold for your filing status and age, you probably won’t have to file. But if it’s over, you will. 

  • Single: $13,850 ($15,700 if you’re 65 or older by Jan. 1, 2023).
  • Married filing jointly: $27,700 ($29,200 if you or your spouse are 65 or older; or $30,700 if you’re both over 65). 
  • Married filing separately: $5 at any age.
  • Head of household: $20,800 ($22,650 if 65 or older).
  • Qualifying surviving spouse: $27,700 ($29,200 if 65 or older).

To get a detailed breakdown of federal filing requirements, along with information on taxable and nontaxable income, call the IRS at 800-829-3676 and ask them to mail you a free copy of the “1040 and 1040-SR Instructions for Tax Year 2023,” or you can see it online.


Check Here Too

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Be aware that other financial situations can require you to file a tax return, even if your gross income falls below the IRS filing requirements. For example, if you earned more than $400 from self-employment in 2023, owe any taxes on an IRA, Health Savings Account, or an alternative minimum tax, or get premium tax credits because you, your spouse, or a dependent is enrolled in a Health Insurance Marketplace plan, you’ll need to file. 

You’ll also need to file if you’re receiving Social Security benefits, and one-half of your benefits plus your other gross income and any tax-exempt interest exceeds $25,000, or $32,000 if you’re married and filing jointly. 

To figure all this out, the IRS offers an online tax tool that asks a series of questions that will help you determine if you’re required to file, or if you should file because you’re due a refund. It takes less than 15 minutes to complete.

You can access this tool at – click on “Do I Need to File a Tax Return?”  Or you can get assistance over the phone by calling the IRS helpline at 800-829-1040. 


Do I Have to File a State Tax Return?

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Even if you’re not required to file a federal tax return this year, don’t assume you’re also excused from filing state income taxes. The rules for your state might be very different. Check with your state tax agency before concluding that you’re entirely in the clear.

Tax Preparation Help

financial advisor giving retirees tax return help

If you find that you do need to file a tax return this year, you can free file through the IRS at if your 2023 adjusted gross income was below $79,000. 

Or, if you need some help, contact the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (or TCE) program. Sponsored by the IRS, TCE provides free tax preparation and counseling to middle and low-income taxpayers, aged 60 and older. Call 800-906-9887 or visit to locate services near you. 

You can also get tax preparation assistance through the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide service. Call 888-227-7669 or visit for more information. You don’t have to be an AARP member to use this service.

Send your senior questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit

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Originally published March 11, 2024


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