When Does a Senior Citizen on Social Security Stop Filing Taxes?
Updated for Tax Year 2018
The IRS requires you to file a tax return when your gross income exceeds the sum of the standard deduction for your filing status plus one exemption amount. These filing rules still apply to senior citizens who are living on Social Security benefits. If you are a senior, however, you don't count your Social Security income as gross income. If Social Security is your sole source of income, then you don't need to file a tax return.
When seniors must file
For tax year 2018, you will need to file a return if you are unmarried and at least 65 years of age, and your gross income is $13,600 or more. However, if you live on Social Security benefits, you don't include this in gross income. If this is the only income you receive, then your gross income equals zero, and you don't have to file a federal income tax return. But if you do earn other income that is not tax-exempt, then each year you must determine whether the total exceeds $13,600.
For tax years prior to the 2018 tax year (filed in 2019), these amounts are based on the year's standard deduction plus the exemption amount for your age and filing status. For tax years after 2017, only your standard deduction is used since exemptions are now longer part of calculating you taxable income under the new tax law passed in late 2017.
If you are married and file a joint return with a spouse who is also 65 or older, you must file a return if your combined gross income is $26,600 or more. If your spouse is under 65 years old, then the threshold amount decreases to $25,300. Keep in mind that these income thresholds only apply to the 2018 tax year, and generally increase slightly each year.