Do you have to file a tax return?
Whether you have to file a tax return depends on your filing status, age, how much you make, and what type of income you make. But whether you have to file a tax return or not, you may want to file for various reasons.
You may be entitled to a refund if you had money deducted from your paycheck for taxes, or you may be entitled to certain refundable tax credits.
If you're entitled to a refund but don't file a return, you generally only have two (2) years to get it back. Yes, I've had clients lose their right to receive sizable tax refunds, just because they did not timely file a tax return.
Also, filing a tax return can protect you from future I.R.S. trouble in certain ways. The I.R.S. has only three (3) years to audit your return in most cases, after you file your return. If you understate your income by more than 25%, the I.R.S. has six (6) years to audit, after the date that you file your return.
But if you don't file a tax return, these periods never start. The I.R.S. can audit you indefinitely. So I recommend that my clients always file tax returns, whether they have to or not.
For detailed information about whether or not you have to file an income tax return, see I.R.S. Publication 501.