Getting a summer job may be the first taste of freedom for your teen. She likely now has more money coming in than she did when she was only receiving an allowance. However, with increased freedom comes increased responsibility. Your teen may now also need to file a tax return. Whether she needs to file a tax return for a summer job will depend on several factors.
Should Your Teen File a Tax Return for a Summer Job?
The quick answer is, it depends. Here are a few factors to consider:
How Much Did He Make?
First, consider how much your teenager earned in a year. According to the IRS, if a single filer earned less than $12,550 in 2021, he does not need to file a tax return. (This new amount represents an increase to account for inflation, up $150 from last year.)
However, you must answer another question to know whether or not he needs to file taxes—did he have taxes taken from every paycheck?
Did She Have Taxes Withheld?
When your child starts a new job, she has to fill out a W-4 form. On that form, she has to determine whether or not she will have taxes deducted. If she thinks she will earn less than $12,550 in a year, she can claim “exempt,” and no taxes will be taken out of her paycheck. If no taxes were pulled from her paycheck and she earned less than $12,550 a year, she likely won’t have to file a tax return. To be certain, you can utilize the IRS’ free tool, Do I Need to File a Tax Return?
You may consider having your child go ahead and have taxes withdrawn from her paycheck for two reasons.
First, having taxes withdrawn from her paycheck is a good life experience. When she’s older and working full-time, taxes will be withdrawn. Learning that her entire salary is not her own because her employer will withdraw things like taxes and insurance is a good experience.
Second, some states have different standard deductions. If you live in Arizona and are a single filer, you have a standard $12,550 state deduction just like the federal deduction. However, if you live in Iowa, the single standard state deduction is only $2,130. If your child works in Iowa and earns more than $2,130 in a calendar year, she will owe state taxes if she claims “exempt” on her W-4. If you don’t know what your state’s deduction is, having taxes withheld is easier.
An important exception is if your child is an independent contractor, a.k.a a freelancer, and earns a 1099-MISC for his work. If he is a freelancer, he will need to pay self-employment taxes regardless of how much he makes in a year. In this case, he will need to file an income tax return every year.
Whether or not your child needs to file a tax return for a summer job depends on several factors. If you’re still not sure, the IRS tool should help you determine the answer.
Getting your child into the habit of having taxes withheld and filing a tax return is excellent practice for adulthood and the responsibilities that come with it.