Can a Dependent File Taxes? Understanding Tax Filing Rules for Dependents

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Written By kevin

A financial strategist with a knack for demystifying taxes and insurance, Kevin distills complex concepts into actionable advice.

Are you classified as a dependent and pondering whether you need to file taxes? The tax filing rules for dependents can indeed be perplexing. This article aims to demystify the basic tax filing requirements that apply to dependents, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of your obligations.

Who Qualifies as a Dependent?

A dependent is an individual who is financially reliant on another person. This category typically includes children under 19 or full-time students under 24. The IRS also recognizes elderly parents or family members with disabilities as dependents, provided they meet specific criteria.

Tax Filing Requirements for Dependents

As a dependent, you may wonder if you have to file taxes. If your earned income was below $12,200 in 2019 (or $12,400 in 2020), you are not required to file taxes. However, if your unearned income (such as interest income from savings accounts) exceeded $1,100 in both years combined, you are obligated to file taxes.

Can Dependents Claim Themselves on Their Tax Return?

If another person claims you as their dependent on their tax return (typically your parents), you cannot claim yourself on your own tax return.

Tax Forms for Dependents

Dependents usually use Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR when filing their taxes. The specific form required may vary based on individual circumstances and government guidelines.


Being a dependent does not necessarily exempt you from filing taxes. It is crucial to understand and comply with the IRS’ regulations for filing. Awareness of your earned and unearned income thresholds, along with other rules pertaining to dependents, can simplify the process. Always seek professional advice if you are uncertain about your tax filing requirements.


Q: Can a dependent file taxes if they have income?

A: Yes, dependents who earn income may be required to file their own tax return if their income exceeds certain thresholds. For 2020 tax returns (filed in 2021), the threshold is $12,400 for single filers and $24,800 for married individuals filing jointly. If a dependent earns less than these amounts from all sources of income combined, they generally do not need to file a federal tax return.

Q: Can parents claim their adult children as dependents on their taxes?

A: In most cases, parents can only claim their adult children (age 19 or older) as dependents if the adult child earns less than $4,300 in gross taxable income per year and meets other IRS qualifying criteria such as residency and support tests. However, there are some special circumstances where parents may still be able to claim an adult child as a dependent even if the above conditions are not met.

Q: Do dependents receive stimulus payments?

A: Eligibility rules for stimulus payments vary by payment round. In general, eligible taxpayers who claimed dependents on their most recent tax returns were able to receive additional stimulus payments of up to $600 per dependent under the second round of stimulus checks in December 2020. Under the third round of stimulus checks starting in March 2021 ($1,400 per individual), eligible taxpayers will also receive an additional payment amount for each qualified dependent claimed on their tax return irrespective of age limit provided all other eligibility criteria are met.

By staying informed about the appropriate regulations and using such information wisely, you can avoid running into any subsequent complications later down the road. Remember, tax laws can be complex, and it’s always a good idea to seek professional advice if you’re unsure about your tax filing requirements.