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Teens and Taxes: Do I Need to File Taxes?

Written by Eva Rosenberg on June 15, 2011 in Tax  |   25 comments

Teens and Taxes: Do I Need to File Taxes? By Eva Rosenberg My brother and I have been working since we were in our early teens. Like many teens, not knowing anything about taxes, I just let my dad take care of any necessary filings…

Teens and Taxes: Do I Need to File Taxes?
By Eva Rosenberg

My brother and I have been working since we were in our early teens. Like many teens, not knowing anything about taxes, I just let my dad take care of any necessary filings until I moved out at age 18.

When Should You Start Filing Tax Returns?

Taxes are intensely more complicated today than they were when I started college and began filing my own tax returns. You can’t just jump into your own filings anymore without affecting your parents’ tax returns. There are kiddie tax rules and rules for students who may be dependents on their parents’ tax returns until they are 23 years old. It’s enough to make you scream!

There are two distinct situations to consider: teens with jobs and teens with investment income.

Teen with Jobs
As a teen or student, you may feel as if you are a protected class. We get discounts. Adult rules don’t apply to us. We don’t have to pay taxes. I know that’s how I felt.

Well…it doesn’t quite work that way.

“Exempt” is not the right choice to put on your employer’s W-4 form. Even if you earn as little as $3,650 in a year (from all sources), you are likely to face income taxes.

Freelance income is taxable even sooner. Once you have $400 in profit, you must pay self-employment (SE) taxes. That’s normally 15.3 percent of your profits. For only 2011, SE tax has dropped to 13.3 percent.

When reporting income on Schedule C, you can deduct your business-related expenses. If you are paying for your own Internet service, hosting, software, texting, supplies, etc., your freelance earnings of $1,200 might be reduced to less than $400.

When you file your own tax return, be sure NOT to claim yourself as a dependent. Kids under age 18 are always dependents on their parents’ tax returns. Students under age 24 suffer the same fate.

Teens with Investment Income
Parents and grandparents can be very generous, giving you gifts of money or stocks. Since that was a clever way for parents to move profits to a lower tax bracket, Congress closed that loophole, taxing the investment income of children under 18 at their parents’ highest tax rates. Recently, Congress raised the age limit to 24 for students who are still dependents of their parents.

The Tax Code has a unique definition of investment income for children. It doesn’t mean just dividends, interest, and capital gains. It turns out that for children, “investment income” is any income that isn’t wages or self-employment income.

If you have investment income of $1,900 or more, you need to either file your own tax return using Form 8615 or have your parents report your income on their tax return using Form 8814.

The Bottom Line

It’s good to get the experience of preparing your own tax returns, and it’s important to know when you have an obligation to file a tax return. However, it’s wise to coordinate your filings with your parents—and to have your parents review your tax returns before you file.

Read More:

Skip the Allowance and Hire Your Child
Celebrity Tax Scandals
Temporary Work for Fun, Profit, and Retirement
How to Ensure You Get Audited
Medical Tax Deductions Are Worth More Than You Think


Eva Rosenberg, EA is the publisher of TaxMama.com, where your tax questions are answered. Eva is the author of several books and ebooks, including Small Business Taxes Made Easy. Eva teaches a tax pro course at IRSExams.com.

The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.


  1. Anonymous says:

    My granddaughter has a job and living with their parent.She has just turn 18.What kind of form does she need.or can her parients file on her with her taxes?Love to get answer from you .Thank you for all the help.

    • EFX Finance Blog Editor, JF says:

      Thanks for reading. Teens and taxes can vary a great deal, as the blog post explains. To figure out what your granddaughter needs to do for her taxes, she’ll need to talk to her parents about if they want to claim her as a dependent and how much money your granddaughter makes. See the above blog post for more information. Thanks for your comment, and we hope to hear from you on the blog again soon.

  2. Jordan says:

    Well im 14 and i wanted to know if i start to work with a permit can my mom still file a tax return

    • Friendlyporcupine says:

      There are some places out there in your community perhaps that give you permits. Look up SYEP or summer youth employment. And what they do is , make you sit through safety stuff and career choices etc then they find u a job in your preferred deparetment and then all you give them is sometimes a small fee but you always give them a state issued ID that comes with other benefits too. That ID will show any emplyeers your work restrictions and then you look for jobs. It’s a lot I wrote here and I probably rambled but just look up SYEP and hopefully find a job

  3. Kaya says:

    i would like know if teens pay taxes or not?

  4. Bill says:

    if a teen turns 18 and has no income, do they need to file a tax return?

  5. Kyle says:

    If any crazy teens are interested in Bitcoin, this means you gotta pay taxes on what coins you earn… which may be difficult as the value fluctuates almost daily. However, the internet required may count under “business-related expenses”.

  6. ASHLEY says:


    • EFX Moderator_KB says:

      Ashley, even if you earned as little as $3,650 at your job in the year you were a minor, you are likely to face income taxes.

  7. Abigaiil says:

    im 17 and i earn roughly 400-700 a month at my job depending on how many hours i work when should i start doing taxes and what type should i be in accordance with according to my hr manager since im a minor and barley make the amount needed i dont need to yet any help or advice welcome

  8. abby says:

    im 17 and i earn roughly 400-700 a month at my job depending on how many hours i work when should i start doing taxes and what type should i be in accordance with according to my hr manager since im a minor and barley make the amount needed i dont need to yet any help or advice welcome

  9. Jasmine says:

    Hi, I just turned 18 in June and signed up for housing and child tax benefit, they both say I need to show a tax return of 2013.. What do I do?

  10. Liylah says:

    I’m 17 and I was working some of last year. I was wondering if its a better decision to wait until I’m 18 to file my taxes. I turn 18 March 21st.

  11. Brandon E. says:

    I’m 16 and I’m a seller on eBay. Does this count as a job? I don’t make much but I do make a couple hundred dollars a month at the least and I’ve been doing it for several month. I also pay my own phone bill and business website. Does this mean I have to file taxes?

  12. eddie says:

    Teens pay taxes I usually get up $50 out of my paycheck for social security Medicare and other taxes. If a teen has a job the taxes come out of their paycheck and they can file for taxes

  13. Anonymous says:

    My 11 year old son works for my in laws in the summer earning about 3000.00 does he have to pay taxes? When is it concidered a gift?

    • EFX Moderator says:

      If you pay your child/grandchild to help you, and you choose to deduct his or her pay as a business expense, you must follow proper procedures, which may include paying your child as a W-2 employee. At the end of the year, if your child’s income is less than the standard deduction (currently about $6,000), he or she has no requirement to file a return and won’t have to pay any federal income taxes on that money. Please take a look at this blog post for more details: Small Business Taxes: What to Know When Hiring Your Children.

  14. Cecelia says:

    Im 15 and i have a legal job working at a daycare center and i get paid minimum wage. I was wondering if since i get taxes taken out of my paycheck if i can still file for tax return?

  15. John says:

    I’m 21 full time student, living in Greece at the moment and worked only last year for a total of 660 Euros. Do i have to file?

  16. Kayla E. says:

    Hello, I have an interesting situation. I just started working at the end of June, I get paid bi-weekly, so I don’t know how much I’ll work, thus make during the school year. That, however isn’t truly the problem. My grandparents have legal custody of me and my sister, they get child support for us, which is supposed to be around $600 a month, but only get about $250-300 (if we’re lucky) a month. They draw a Social Security check (I think) because my grandfather has been retired for 16 years.

    So, would I file as dependent? I my grandparents don’t file taxes anymore.

    • EFX Moderator says:

      Hi Kayla,
      This seems like a complicated situation. It may be best to consult a tax professional. Best of luck.

  17. steph says:

    Hi, I have a question that I cannot figure it out, hope you help me. I been working when I was 15, I was still in H.S. Now I turned 18 in 2014 and I m in college. I would like to know if I can still be able to claim my own tax return. My mom used to claim me but she does not taking care of me. Can you please help me in this case, what is the best option.

  18. Kyle says:

    I am 16 and received a 1099 MISC for $1295 for some work I did for the city where I live. Do I have to file? I don’t have any other income.

  19. amanda says:

    im 14 and i want to get a job. if i get a job will they take taxes even if its minimum wage?

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