Ask the Tax Pro: Does My Son Have to File a Tax Return?

Barbara asks:

My 16-year-old son earned $1,250.00 in modeling income this year. He was issued a 1099-MISC and his income was reported in Box 7. Does he have to report this income and pay a self employment tax?

Initially when I first started reading your e-mail, I thought it was going to be a kiddie tax issue. Thank Goodness it’s not. To answer your question, in one word, yes.

For dependents — and at 16, I imagine he’s still someone’s dependent — a return is usually not required unless any of the below apply:

  • Unearned income (think dividends, interest, etc.) was over $950.
  • Earned income was over $5,700
  • Gross Income exceeded the larger of $950 or earned income (not to more than $5,400) plus $300

And since the income your son received is considered earned income, and it wasn’t more than $5,700, on that front he’s fine.

Now, even if the above criteria aren’t met, as long as your son earned more than $400 of self-employed income, then he’s required to file a return and report self-employment tax.

Self-employment taxes are simply the employer and the employee portion of social security and medicare taxes. Both of which would have been deducted from wages if you receive a paycheck. Your employee would then match these taxes (except for in 2010).

Quick note: When I originally published this post, I neglected to mention the implications of self-employment tax.

Disclaimer: like any decent tax professional will tell you, since you’re not currently a client of mine—though you can be—it’s almost impossible to provide complete and accurate tax advice over the internet without being aware of the taxpayer’s entire situation; therefore, I suggest you consult your tax professional before relying solely on any information provided on this site.

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