Frequently Asked Questions
Whether you’re required to file a tax return will depend on several factors, including your gross income, filing status, age, and whether you’re a dependent on someone else’s federal income tax return. And you may have to file even if you don’t owe any tax.To get more specific information on who must file, check out IRS Publication 501.
According to the IRS, income includes money, property or services. Any income is taxable unless the law specifically exempts it, and all taxable income must be reported on your tax return. Some nontaxable income must be reported, too, even though you won’t pay taxes on it.IRS Publication 525 has details on what counts as taxable income and what doesn’t, and it’s a lengthy list.
Tax filers are treated differently based on household status. To inform the IRS of which rules apply to you, you’ll have to choose a filing status. There are five: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household and qualifying widow(er) with dependent child.
Your filing status affects your tax rate, standard deduction, and eligibility for certain deductions and credits. The IRS provides an interactive tool to help taxpayers choose a filing status.
The U.S. has a progressive tax system, so not all your income is necessarily taxed at the same rate.
Tax brackets refer to the range of incomes taxed at specific rates, while your marginal tax rate is the highest tax bracket applicable to your income.
There are seven tax brackets under current tax law. To find out which one you fall into — and what your tax rate is — you’ll need to know your income. You can then use IRS Tax Rate Schedules for the taxable year to determine your bracket, what your marginal tax rate is, and how much tax you might owe.
Deductions reduce taxable income. You have a choice between taking a standard deduction or itemizing your deductions. When you itemize, you reduce taxable income by the value of certain expenses deductible under U.S. tax law. For example, if you pay mortgage interest, you can deduct the interest paid — but only if you itemize.
To decide which deductions to take, compare the value of the standard deduction versus the total value of your itemized deductions. The standard deduction was raised for tax years 2018 to 2025.
- $12,000 if you file as single or married filing separately
- $18,000 if you file as head of household
- $24,000 if you file as married filing jointly
Both tax credits and tax deductions can reduce the amount of tax you must pay. Deductions reduce the amount of income you pay taxes on, which in turn can reduce your tax. Credits are a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the amount of tax you owe.
If you had an income of $30,000 and took a $1,000 deduction, you don’t have to pay tax on that $1,000 of income. The deduction could save you $200 (assuming a 20% tax rate on that $1,000).
By contrast, a $1,000 credit would reduce the actual amount of tax you owe by that $1,000. So if you owed $3,000 in taxes, you’d now owe $2,000 and save $1,000.
Each year, you’re required to file your federal income tax return for the previous calendar year by Tax Day. Usually, the filing deadline is on or around April 15, though if the 15th falls on a weekend or holiday the deadline can be bumped to the next business day.
According to the IRS, most refunds are issued within 21 days for taxpayers who e-filed and who are having their refund directly deposited. Refunds take up to six weeks if you submitted paper returns. Claiming certain credits or deductions might delay your refund. You can check the status of your refund on the IRS “Where’s My Refund” website.