Do I Have To File A Return For My Child?

A return must be filed by (or for) a dependent child, if the child has income above ANY of the following limits:

  • Your unearned income was more than $750.
  • Your earned income was more than $4,750.
  • Your gross income was more than the larger of:
    1) $750, or
    2) Your earned income (up to $4,500) plus $250.

If your child has to file a return, and is being claimed as a dependent on your return, he or she cannot also claim a personal exemption on his or her personal return.

If your child is under age 14 at the end of the year, and has investment income, Form 8615 must be attached to the child's return, to determine what portion (if any) of the income is to be taxed at the parent's marginal rate.

Under certain circumstances, you can forego filing a separate return for your child, if you elect to report his or her income on your return using Form 8814. This election is available ONLY if ALL of these conditions apply:

  • The child was under age 14 at the end of 2003. A child born on January 1, 1990, is considered to be age 14 at the end of 2003.
  • The child’s only income was from interest and dividends, including capital gain distributions and Alaska Permanent Fund dividends.
  • The child’s gross income for 2003 was less than $7,500.
  • The child is required to file a 2003 return.
  • There were no estimated tax payments for the child for 2003 (including any overpayment of tax from his or her 2002 return applied to 2003 estimated tax).
  • There was no Federal income tax withheld from the child’s income.

Note: Under most circumstances, we do NOT recommend that this Form 8814 election be made. It will generally result in a higher portion of your child's income being subject to tax, will increase your AGI (which limits some of your deductions), could increase or cause an underpayment penalty, and could make an even more dramatic difference on your state income tax return.

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