Do I really have to file a federal tax return?
The only time you’re not required to file is if your income is less than your personal exemption plus your standard deduction, both of which are determined by your marital status and age.
You can use this table to figure out your personal situation. But generally, if you made more than $23,100 in 2015, you will have to file, according to Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst of Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting US.
But here’s the thing: Even if your income is too low to have to file, you may want to anyway. Why? You could be owed a refund.
Too much tax may have been withheld from your paycheck or you may be entitled to a refundable tax break like the Earned Income Tax Credit, which pays money to qualified filers even if the credit exceeds their tax bill.
How long will it be before I get my refund?
Most filers get refunds and the vast majority of them get their refunds in hand within 21 days from the day they file their returns.
Quiz: Deductible or not?
Is it true the IRS can withhold my refund?
Yes, there are four situations in which the IRS will not send you part or all of your refund: If you’re behind in paying federal student loans, child support, or state income taxes; or if you got too much of a government subsidy to buy health insurance on a federal or state exchange.
What if I know I owe money to the IRS but can’t afford to pay?
First, file anyway. If you don’t, you’ll be hit with a failure-to-file penalty, which is steep.
Second, take a deep breath. There are different payment plan options you can work out with the IRS so that you don’t have to pony up everything all at once.
If you owe more than $10,000, it’s advisable to have a tax attorney, enrolled agent or CPA with experience setting up payment plans to represent you.
If you owe less than that, you still might want to seek a tax professional’s help if all this stuff seems too daunting.