Even if You’re Not Required to File a Tax Return, You May Be Missing Out if You Don’t.

Article Highlights:

  • Tax Filing Thresholds

  • Withholding

  • 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit

  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

  • Child Tax Credit or Credit for Other Dependents

  • Education Credits

Some people may choose not to file a tax return because they didn't earn enough money to be required to file, but these folks may miss out getting a refund if they don’t file. Although there are some exceptions, generally individuals are not required to file a tax return if their income for the year is below the filing threshold for their filing status as shown in the following table.


Filing Status

Age at the end of 2021

Gross Income Filing Threshold


Under 65


65 or older


Head of Household

Under 65


65 or older


Married Filing Jointly

Under 65 (both spouses)


65 or older (one spouse)


65 or older (both spouses)


Married Filing Separate

Any Age


Qualifying Widow(er)

Under 65


65 or older


Many social benefits provided by the government for lower income individuals are distributed through the tax return, often in the form of a tax credit, and a return must be filed to claim those benefits, many of which can be substantial. Some of these credits are partially or fully refundable even if an individual has no tax liability. So, even though you might not be required to file a return you may be missing out on a tax refund if you don’t file one. Here are some examples:

Withholding – If you are not required to file a tax return but had income taxes withheld from your W-2 wages, Social Security benefits, retirement income, or investment income, or you made estimated tax payments, you are entitled to have that withholding or estimate payments refunded. However, you must file a tax return to recover the withholding or tax payments.

2021 Recovery Rebate Credit – Individuals who didn't qualify for a third Economic Impact Payment or got less than the full amount, may be eligible to claim the 2021 recovery rebate credit . However, a 2021 return will need to be filed, even if not otherwise required to file a tax return. The credit will reduce any tax owed for 2021 or be included in the tax refund.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) - A working individual who earned $57,414 or less in 2021 can receive the EITC as a tax refund. For 2021 the amount of the earned income credit ranges from $1,502 to $6,728 depending on your filing status and how many, if any, children you claim on your tax return. Those who did not file a return for tax year 2020 or 2021 or who did not claim the earned income tax credit on their 2020 or 2021 return because they had no earned income in those years may file an original or amended return to claim the credit using their 2019 earned income if they are otherwise eligible to do so.

Child Tax Credit Or Credit For Other Dependents – individuals can claim the child tax credit for 2021 if they have a qualifying child under the age of 18 and meet other qualifications. Other taxpayers may be eligible for the credit for other dependents. This includes people who have:

  • Dependents who are age 18 or older.

  • Dependents who have individual taxpayer identification numbers instead of a Social Security number.

  • Dependent parents or other qualifying relatives whom the taxpayer supports.

  • Dependents living with the taxpayer who aren't related to the taxpayer.

Education Credits – There are two higher education credits that can reduce the amount of tax someone owes on their tax return. One is the American opportunity tax credit and the other is the lifetime learning credit. The taxpayer, their spouse or their dependent must have been a student enrolled at least half time for one academic period and have paid college or university education expenses to qualify. The taxpayer may qualify for one of these credits even if they don't owe any taxes.

If you are not required to file, and didn’t, you can contact this office to determine if any benefit can be gained by filing a 2021 tax return. Even if you are required to file and didn’t, this office can help you meet your filing requirements and take advantage of the many benefits available.

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