How much do you have to make to file taxes? A guide for US expats

How much do you have to make to file US expat taxes?

You may not be living in the US at the moment. That doesn’t necessarily exempt you from having to file taxes. Under the US’s citizenship-based taxation system, anyone who is a citizen or resident must file taxes if they meet the minimum income threshold, regardless of where they live.

But what is the minimum income to file US expat taxes, exactly? Find the answer below.

*Updates were made to capture changes for the 2022 tax year (read: the taxes you’ll file in 2023!). 

Let’s dig into the minimum income requirements:

The minimum income required to file taxes differs. It depends on a number of factors, like marital status, age, and employment status.

For the Self-Employed

If you are self-employed, the minimum income threshold for tax reporting is quite low. It’s just $400 or more in gross income during the tax year.

For any non-self-employed individuals, read on.

For Non-Dependents

For Single Individuals

Single individuals under 65 must file taxes if they have earned $12,550 or more in gross income during the tax year.

Single individuals aged 65 or older must file taxes if they have earned $14,250 or more in gross income during the tax year.

For Married Couples Filing Jointly

If both spouses are under 65, married couples must file taxes if they have earned $25,100 or more in gross income during the tax year.

If one spouse is 65 or older, married couples must file taxes if they have earned $26,450 or more in gross income during the tax year.

If both spouses are 65 or older, married couples must file taxes if they have earned $27,800 or more in gross income during the tax year.

For Married Couples Filing Separately

For married couples filing separately, the minimum income that necessitates a tax return is just $5 or more, regardless of their age. So as you can see, there is a strong incentive for married couples to file jointly!

For Heads of Household  

If you haven’t heard the term before… A head of household is someone who pays more than 50% of overall household expenses for themselves and at least one qualifying person (i.e. a child or dependent).

Heads of households under 65 must file taxes if they have earned $18,800 or more in gross income during the tax year.

Heads of households aged 65 or older must file taxes if they have earned $20,500 or more in gross income during the tax year.

For Qualifying Widows & Widowers

Under certain circumstances, the IRS allows those who have recently lost a spouse to retain the joint-filing benefits they were eligible for when their spouse was alive. To qualify, you must have:

  • Had a spouse who died within the last two years
  • Remain unmarried before the end of the current tax year
  • Qualified to file a joint return the year your spouse died (regardless of whether or not you actually filed jointly)
  • Paid more than 50% of overall household expenses
  • A child, stepchild, or adopted child who qualifies as your dependent and has lived in your home all year (besides temporary periods like vacations)

You can file a return as a qualifying widow or widower a maximum of three times. More specifically, once in the year your spouse died, and then up to two years after.

The minimum income thresholds to file taxes for qualified widows or widowers are the same as they are for married couples filing jointly:

Qualifying widows or widowers under 65 must file taxes if they have earned $25,100 or more in gross income during the tax year.

Qualifying widows and widowers aged 65 or older must file taxes if they have earned $26,450 or more in gross income during the tax year.

More of a visual learner? We’ve recapped the non-dependent minimum income thresholds in the table below. 

Table: Minimum Income to File Taxes for US Expats (Non-Dependents)

Table: Minimum Income to File Taxes for US Expats (Non-Dependents)

For Dependents

If you are claimed on somebody else’s tax return as a dependent, the minimum income required to file taxes is a bit different (and sometimes trickier).

Single Dependents

Single dependents who are under 65 and not blind must file a return if they received the following during the tax year:

  • $1,100 or more in unearned income, OR
  • $12,550 in earned income, OR
  • Gross income above both a) $1,100 and b) your earned income (up to $12,200) plus $350

Single dependents who are EITHER 65 or older OR blind must file a return if they received the following during the tax year:

  • $2,800 or more in unearned income, OR
  • $14,250 or more in earned income, OR
  • Gross income above both a) $2,800 and b) your earned income (up to $12,200) plus $2,050

Single dependents who are BOTH 65 or older AND blind must file a return if they received the following during the tax year:

  • $4,500 or more in unearned income, OR
  • $15,950 or more in earned income, OR
  • Gross income above both a) $4,500 and b) your earned income (up to $12,200) plus $3,750

Married Dependents Filing Jointly

Married dependents who are under 65 and not blind must file a return if they received the following during the tax year:

  • $1,100 or more in unearned income, OR
  • $12,550 or more in earned income, OR
  • Gross income above both a) $1,100 and b) your earned income (up to $12,200) plus $350

Married dependents who are EITHER 65 or older OR blind must file a return if they received the following during the tax year:

  • $2,450 or more in unearned income, OR
  • $13,900 or more in earned income, OR
  • Gross income above both a) $2,450 and b) your earned income (up to $12,200) plus $1,700

Married dependents who are BOTH 65 or older AND blind must file a return if they received the following during the tax year:

  • $3,800 or more in unearned income, OR
  • $15,250 or more in earned income, OR
  • Gross income above both a) $3,800 and b) your earned income (up to $12,200) plus $3,050

Married Dependents Filing Separately

For married dependents filing separate returns, the minimum income threshold to file taxes is $5 or more. This is regardless of their age and whether or not they are blind.

Here’s a table that sums all of that information up:

Table: Minimum Income to File Taxes for US Expats (Dependents)

Table: Minimum Income to File Taxes for US Expats (Dependents)

What if I make less than the minimum income to File US Expat Taxes?

Those who make less than the minimum income aren’t obligated to file tax returns. That being said, it may be beneficial to do so. For one, you may qualify for tax credits, which will be sent to you as a refund. It can also help lower the risk of future audits.

Other Tax Obligations

In addition to the standard 1040 form, expats may also be required to file additional information, like:

  • FinCEN form 114, for those whose assets in foreign bank accounts total $10,000 or more at any time in the tax year
  • Form 8938, for those whose foreign assets are valuated at a certain amount (typically $200,000 or more)

Do you meet the Minimum Income to File US Expat Taxes? Bright!Tax can help you file!

Between the multiple forms, acronyms, and specific exemptions, filing taxes is hard – especially if you’re a US expat. At Bright!Tax, we specialize in making expat taxes a snap — just consult with us, and we’ll do the heavy lifting.

Want to learn more or get started? Reach out today!

Register now, and your Bright!Tax CPA will be in touch right away to guide you through the next steps.

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