I'm a senior citizen and live off of Social Security. How do I know if I need to file a tax return?

When seniors must file

If you are single and at least 65 years old and U.S. Social Security is the only income you receive, then you don't have to file a federal income tax return. If you do earn other income, then you must file if the amount of income earned, excluding Social Security, exceeds $11,850.  Keep in mind that these income thresholds only apply to the 2015 tax year and generally increase slightly each year.

When to include Social Security income as part of your gross income

There are certain situations when seniors must include their Social Security benefits as part of their gross income. If you are married but file a separate tax return and live with your spouse at any time during the year, then all of your Social Security benefits are considered gross income which may require you to file a tax return. Additionally, a portion of your Social Security benefits must be included in your gross income, regardless of your filing status, in any year where the sum of half your Social Security income plus all other income, including tax-exempt interest, exceeds $25,000 ($32,000 if you are married filing jointly).

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