Is There a Minimum Income to File Taxes in California?

Is There a Minimum Income to File Taxes in California?

For many California residents, filing taxes is a requirement, but there can be some exceptions based on income and other factors. Individuals or families who do not earn a significant gross income may not have to file a federal income tax return, but there can still be advantages to doing so. OC Free Tax Prep can help offset the costs of filing for low-income households and ensure families are maximizing their return potential.

As 2018 winds to a close, California residents are gearing up for tax season. Though the deadline to file is April 15, 2019, it is not too early to start gathering necessary documents. A big question on some people’s minds, however, is whether they even need to file taxes if they did not have significant income.

Most people are required to file a state return in California, even with minimal income, but what about a federal return? The answer depends primarily on your age, income, and filing status. Here is a basic breakdown for filing:

  • If you’re single and under age 65, then you must file if your gross income was at least $10,400. If you’re over age 65, this increases to $11,950.
  • If you’re married, both under age 65, and filing jointly, you must file if your gross income was at least $20,800. If one spouse is over age 65, this increases to $22,050, and if both spouses are over age 65, it is $23,300.
  • If you’re married but filing separately, regardless of your age, you must file if your gross income was at least $4,050.

If you’re filing as head of household, the rates are a little different with gross income requirements of at least $13,400 for individuals under age 65, and $14,950 for those over age 65. There are also different requirements if you qualify as a widow or if you are a dependent. Dependents typically have to file if they earned more than $6,350 in gross income.

In addition, if you are self-employed, received a 1099-MISC form, or received an advanced tax credit through the California state or federal healthcare marketplace, you may be required to file a tax return regardless of your income.

Filing Exceptions

Just because you don’t meet the gross income requirements to file does not mean you should skip it all together. You may be eligible to receive certain refunds or credits anyway. For instance, low-income families may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) federally, and the California EITC on their state tax return. This can pay anywhere from $232 to $6,431. If your child is attending college for the first time, you may also be eligible for the American Opportunity Tax Credit of up to $2,500 per student.

It is a good idea to talk with a tax professional to determine your filing status and whether you are required to file or could benefit from doing so anyway. Orange County United Way’s OC Free Tax Prep helps qualifying households in Orange County file taxes for free and maximize their returns. Tax volunteers help educate families on available tax credits and refunds they may be eligible for and assist with accurately preparing and filing tax documents. The tax refunds received help residents save for the future, pay down debt, and afford basic necessities. Learn more by visiting