Is my income too low to file taxes, and how do I tell the bankruptcy trustee this?

Maybe.  If it’s low enough, you really don’t need to file taxes, but you should.

I am not a tax professional, and I am getting my information from a very helpful turbotax site here, which gives the following table:

Federal (IRS) Filing Requirements

Whether or not you need to file a return depends on your filing status, your age, and your gross income, which may or may not include Social Security benefits.

If your gross income is less than the amount shown below, you’re off the hook! You are not required to file a tax return with the IRS. But remember, if Federal taxes were withheld from your earnings, you’ll want to file a tax return to get any withholdings back.

Filing Status Age at December 31, 2013 Gross Income
Single Under 65 $10,000
65 or older $11,500
Married Filing Jointly Under 65 (both) $20,000
65 or older (both) $22,400
Under 65 (one) $21,200
Married Filing Separately Any $6,100
Head of Household Under 65 $12,850
65 or older $14,350
Qualifying Widow(er) Under 65 $16,100
65 or older $17,300

Exceptions

  • If you can be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer, the income threshold for filing is generally lower than the chart above. For instance, children and teens who work must file a tax return only if they earn more than $6,100 a year.
  • If you are self-employed and your net earnings (income minus expenses) are more than $400, you need to file and pay self-employment tax. (You won’t receive credit toward Social Security benefits if you don’t report and pay this tax.)
  • Special rules apply for dependent children who have investment income. To learn more, read The Kiddie Tax.

So, if you’re making less than $10,000 a year and are not someone else’s dependent, then you really don’t need to file, but you still should.  You may qualify for the EIC or other tax credits.  You may get a refund of whatever taxes you did pay that year.  no taxes

As far as bankruptcy goes, we are required to give the bankruptcy trustee our last filed return, even if it was 5 years ago.  At the 341 Meeting of Creditors we give the trustee testimony that you didn’t have sufficient income to file recent taxes.  This is usually sufficient.  However, I recently had a trustee ask me to provide a Declaration or Affidavit from an attorney or tax professional that the debtors had no tax filing requirement.  I drafted up a declaration for my clients, signed it, and provided it to the trustee.