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Can you file a tax return if you had no income?

Pittsburgh, PA |
Filed under: Tax return

Sounds like such a stupid question I know. I am a stay at home mom and just enrolled as a full time college student online. I'll be getting grants and student loans to cover my tuition. I read something that said there are education credits you can get even if you don't have the income normally needed to file a tax return. And even if you owe no taxes. Does that mean I can file a return this coming year and get credits for school? Also, if I can, could I claim my child as a dependant and receive the child tax credit and earned income credits as well? If not, what is the minimum amount you'd need to make working to file a return and get these credits? Thank you!

Attorney Answers 3


  1. There is no reason why you cannot file a tax return, even if you had no taxable income. Many tax professionals advise their clients to file tax returns, even if they're not legally required to do so. Based upon the information that you have provided, you do not qualify for the earned income credit ("EIC") because you do not have any "earned income" (i.e., wages, salaries, commissions, etc.). See http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/EITC-Home-Page--It%E2%80%99s-easier-than-ever-to-find-out-if-you-qualify-for-EITC; http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/EITC-Income-Limits,-Maximum-Credit--Amounts-and-Tax-Law-Updates; and http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Earned-Income-Tax-Credit-(EITC)-%E2%80%93--Use-the-EITC-Assistant-to-Find-Out-if-You-Should-Claim-it.

    For most taxpayers, the child tax credit is not refundable in nature, such that you would be entitled to obtain a refund even though the credit exceeds your tax liability, i.e., so that the credit enables you to receive a refund. However, a taxpayer’s total child tax credit is refundable to the extent of the greater of 15% of the taxpayer’s earned income over $3,000 (as adjusted for inflation based on 2009 dollars) or, as long as the taxpayer has three or more qualifying children, the excess of social security taxes paid over earned income credit, all subject to the income threshold. See http://www.1040.com/federal-taxes/credits/additional-child-tax-credit/ ; and http://www.irs.gov/uac/Ten-Facts-about-the-Child-Tax-Credit.

    The answer to this question does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Moreover, this attorney is licensed to practiced law ONLY in the State of California. Answers to questions from users in other jurisdictions or states are meant to provide only general information. Users should contact a local attorney in their jurisdiction or state to address their specific tax issue.


  2. Yes, you can file without any income.

    Evan A. Nielsen is licensed to practice law in California and handles federal tax matters throughout the U.S. The information provided here is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice for a particular matter. This response does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult an attorney.


  3. Yes, you can file a return with no income

    As with all advice posted on a public forum, my advice is not to be relied upon. Given the limited set of facts provided in the question, and the limited amount of research conducted in my answer, my advice is not intended to constitute "legal advice," and you should consult with another tax attorney or CPA to get a dependable answer to your question