Learn the basic rules on if your child must file a tax return because (s)he had earned and unearned income.
Your child(ren) may need to file their own tax returns even though they are still your dependents for tax purposes. If your child does not file the tax return when it is a must, the child’s parent (guardian) may be liable for the tax and any penalties.
If your child had only earned income (earned from working) in 2018, the child must file if the earned income was $12,000 (Standard Deduction).
For example: Michael, a 17-year-old dependent child, worked at a pizza shop on nights and weekends during the school and the summer. He earned $6,000 in wages. He is not required to file. However, if his twin sister Erica, earned $15,000 in wages. She must file.
If your child did not work at all but had unearned income (income from bank interest, investments, etc.) of more than $1,050, the child must file.
If your child had both earned and unearned income, (s)he must file a return if…..
- Unearned income was over $1,050,
- Earned income was over $12,000, OR
- Unearned income + earned income = more than the larger of $1,050 or earned income up to $11,650 + $350
Although your child is not required to file, you should file if you can get money back.
For example, you should file if one of the following applies.
- You had income tax withheld from your pay.
- You made estimated tax payments for the year or had any of your overpayment for last year applied to this year’s estimated tax.
- You qualify for the earned income credit. See Pub. 596 for more information.
- You qualify for the additional child tax credit. See the instructions for Form 1040 for more information.
- You qualify for the refundable American opportunity education credit. See Form 8863.
- You qualify for the health coverage tax credit. For information on this credit, see Form 8885.
- You qualify for the credit