Individuals can incur a tax filing requirement at any age. A minor child who is required to file an income tax return is likely to need some level of assistance and guidance from an adult.

Most minor children are included as a dependent on the tax return of a parent or guardian. However, the dependent may have earnings of their own. Because they can be claimed as a dependent on another tax return, the income threshold at which a dependent must file a return is lower than the regular filing threshold for nondependent individuals.

Determining if a return is required

For dependents, a clear distinction is made between earned income and unearned income when determining the filing threshold for each specific individual. Examples of unearned income include interest and dividends. If the income of a dependent consists solely of unearned income, the filing threshold is $1,050.

Even if there is no requirement to file a tax return, many younger workers choose to do so simply to receive a refund of taxes withheld from their pay. Depending on your child's ability to sign their own name, you have an option to indicate to the IRS that you are available to address any issues that might arise during processing of the return.

Signing in place of a tax filer

Even with no earned income, a toddler receiving interest or dividends in excess of their filing threshold has a filing requirement. If the child cannot write, you can sign your name on the signature line of the tax form. Immediately after your signature, indicate that you are signing as parent or guardian of a minor child. If your child is able to sign their own return, another option is available to help ensure that the IRS contacts you with any questions, instead of your dependent.

Being a third party designee

There is an entry line immediately above the signature line on Form 1040 that goes unnoticed by many tax filers. The line is for granting permission to a third party designee to discuss the tax return with the IRS. Your status of third party designee allows you to inquire about a balance due or an expected refund.

Tax filers under age 16 cannot e-file their first return on their own. They can, however, e-file their first return through a tax practitioner. For an e-filed return, the required signature is placed on a paper authorization form. Contact a tax preparer for more information about how family relationships affect taxes. Visit websites like to learn more.