Does Your Child Need to File a Tax Return This Year?

Here’s how to tell if your child needs to file a tax return in 2024 and how it can impact your tax liability.

Ceramic piggy bank and sticky notes with drawn question marks on a blue background, top view
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If your child or children recently started working (or otherwise earning income), they may need to file a tax return this year — and they might need your help to do so. If your child is required to file, their income may impact your tax liability. 

However, this isn't always the case. Parents can often file as they normally would before their child started working. So, can you? Here's what you need to know about your taxes and your child’s taxes for this 2024 tax season.

How much does a child have to make to file taxes?

Whether your child needs to file a tax return depends on how much they made and what type of income they received. If they only had earned income (e.g., from wages), they have to file only if their income exceeds the standard deduction for the tax year ($13,850 for 2023 and $14,600 for 2024). 

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

The filing threshold is much lower for other types of income.

  • Minors must file a 2023 federal income tax return if they received $400 or more in tips or self-employment income.
  • For unearned income (for example, income from dividends or interest), the filing threshold is $1,250 for the 2023 tax year. 
  • Unearned income that exceeds $2,500 is taxed at the parent’s tax rate unless the child’s rate is higher (often referred to as the “kiddie tax).

You can use Form 8615 to calculate your child’s tax liability on unearned income of more than $2,500.

Note: Even if a child isn’t required to file a tax return, they may want to if doing so would result in a tax refund. 

Do I have to claim my child’s income on my taxes? 

You don’t need to claim your child’s income on your tax return, but the IRS deems parents or guardians responsible when minors can’t file on their own. According to the agency, when a minor cannot sign a return, you must “sign the child's name followed by the word by, then your signature, and your relationship, such as parent or guardian for [the] minor child."

Can I include my  child's income on my tax return? If a child earned less than $12,500 in unearned income only, parents may have the option to report the income on their tax return. Additional requirements apply. See IRS Publication 501 for more information.

Can you claim your child as a dependent if they file?

Minors can typically file a tax return without affecting your ability to claim them as a dependent, but there are a few exceptions. For example, your child cannot provide more than half of their financial support to qualify as a dependent. In most cases, the minor child must have lived with you for more than half of the year. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.

  • Children who were born or died during the year are considered by the IRS to have lived with you for more than half the year.
  • Children who are away at college might still qualify as your dependent.
  • Children who were kidnapped qualify as dependents.
  • There may be an exception for a child of divorced or separated parents.
  • Children who were adopted may still qualify as dependents.
  • Temporary absences due to illness, placement in a juvenile detention facility, or vacation do not disqualify the child from being claimed as a dependent.

The IRS has specific rules (and exceptions) for who is considered a qualifying child and who is considered a qualifying relative. See Chapter 3 of IRS Publication 17 for detailed information.

Related Content

Katelyn Washington
Tax Writer

Katelyn has more than 6 years’ experience working in tax and finance. While she specializes in tax content, Katelyn has also written for digital publications on topics including insurance, retirement and financial planning and has had financial advice commissioned by national print publications. She believes that knowledge is the key to success and enjoys helping others reach their goals by providing content that educates and informs.