Personal taxes


Why You Might Need to File Form 8615: Tax for Certain Children with Unearned Income & Kiddie Tax

7 minute read

Learn to File Form 8615: Tax for Certain Children Who Have Unearned Income



Navigating tax laws can be daunting, especially when it involves children and their unearned income. This article delves into the complexities of Form 8615, a crucial tax document for certain children with unearned income. If you're a parent, guardian, or a young taxpayer, understanding Form 8615 is essential for ensuring compliance and possibly reducing tax liabilities. We'll explore what this form entails, who needs to file it, and how it impacts your tax situation.

What is Form 8615 and the Kiddie Tax?

Form 8615, officially titled "Tax for Certain Children Who Have Unearned Income," is a crucial IRS form for reporting the tax on unearned income of certain minors in the United States. This form specifically targets children under 18, or those under 24 if they are full-time students, who possess significant unearned income. The "kiddie tax," a common term for the tax calculated using this form, aims to prevent tax evasion tactics where parents shift considerable investment income to their children, thus exploiting the lower tax rates typically applied to minors.

Who Needs to File Form 8615? Tax for Certain Children

Filing Form 8615 is mandatory for children who meet specific conditions related to their age, the amount of unearned income, and their dependency status. The form is generally required if a child’s unearned income surpasses a defined limit and if the child is either below 18 years at the end of the tax year, a full-time student aged between 19 and 24, or over 18 but with earned income not exceeding half of their financial support.
The kiddie tax income threshold in 2023 depends on the type of income a child receives:

Unearned income:

  • $1,250: This is the standard deduction amount for unearned income. The first $1,250 of a child's unearned income is tax-free.
  • $2,500: Any unearned income exceeding $2,500 is subject to the kiddie tax. This includes income from interest, dividends, capital gains distributions, and rental property.

Earned income:

  • $13,850: This is the threshold for earned income that triggers the kiddie tax. If a child's earned income exceeds $13,850, the unearned income exceeding $1,250 will be taxed at the parents' marginal tax rate.

Here's a breakdown:

  • Unearned income less than $1,250: Not taxed.
  • Unearned income between $1,250 and $2,500: Taxed at the child's tax rate.
  • Unearned income exceeding $2,500: Taxed at the parents' marginal tax rate.
  • Earned income less than $13,850: No impact on kiddie tax.
  • Earned income exceeding $13,850: Triggers kiddie tax for unearned income exceeding $1,250.

Keep in mind that these thresholds are for the 2023 tax year (filed in 2024). The thresholds may be adjusted for future tax years.

The Connection Between Form 8615 and Form 8814

Form 8814, another IRS document, intersects with Form 8615 in terms of children’s income. It permits parents to opt to report their child’s income on their tax return, thus avoiding the need for the child to file separately. Nonetheless, Form 8814 has distinct parameters and limitations in comparison to Form 8615, making it crucial to understand the differences and applicability of each form.

Tax Rates and Calculations on Form 8615: Related Topics

The tax rate imposed on a child’s unearned income through Form 8615 is typically the parents' tax rate, which can be higher than the child's standard rate. This mechanism ensures that the income is taxed at a potentially higher rate, effectively countering the strategy of income shifting for tax benefits.

Understanding Investment Income and Its Implications

The core of Form 8615 revolves around investment income, encompassing interest, dividends, and capital gains. Accurate reporting and calculation of this income type are pivotal in determining the precise tax obligation.

The Role of Worksheets in Calculating Taxes

The IRS provides detailed worksheets in the Form 8615 instructions, serving as indispensable tools for correctly calculating the tax due on a child's unearned income. These worksheets offer a step-by-step guide through the intricate process of tax computation for such scenarios.

Navigating the 1040 Return: Certain Children who have Unearned Income

Dealing with children’s unearned income necessitates a thorough understanding of its influence on the overall 1040 tax return. Parents may be required to furnish additional details and perform complex calculations to accurately report and assess the tax on this income category.

Seeking Tax Help for Form 8615: Income Tax

Given the intricacies of the kiddie tax rules, seeking assistance from a tax professional or utilizing dependable tax software is often invaluable. Such resources can offer essential guidance, ensure adherence to tax laws, and potentially optimize tax outcomes.

Form 8615 and Social Security Numbers

For filing Form 8615, the child’s valid Social Security Number (SSN) is a mandatory requirement, ensuring the accurate processing and association of tax records.

The Impact of Age: 18, 19, 24

The applicability of Form 8615 is heavily influenced by the child’s age. Different regulations apply to children below 18, those aged between 19 and 24 who are full-time students, and those above 18 but with earned income falling short of supporting more than half of their expenses.

Age Qualifies as Dependent Qualifies as Student Dependent Kiddie Tax Applies Form 8615 Required
18 Yes Yes Yes, if unearned income > $2,300 Yes, if dependent and income > $2,300
19 Yes (under specific circumstances) Yes Yes, if unearned income > $2,300 Yes, if dependent and income > $2,300
24 No (except in rare cases) Yes May apply if full-time student and meets income and support criteria May be required if student dependent and income > $2,300

Every Dollar Counts: Maximizing Your Tax Situation

A deep comprehension of Form 8615 and its implications is crucial for effective financial planning and tax strategies. It’s vital to meticulously consider every facet of unearned income to ensure the avoidance of unnecessary tax burdens.

Key Takeaways: Understanding Form 8615 for Children with Unearned Income

  • Certain Children with Unearned Income: Form 8615 is used for children who have unearned income and meet specific age and income criteria.
  • Individual Tax Obligations: This form impacts the individual tax situation of children under age 18 at the end of the tax year or full-time students at least age 19 and under age 24.
  • IRS Form 8615: IRS Form 8615 must be filed for eligible children to accurately report and calculate the tax on unearned income.
  • Calculating Child's Support: The necessity to file hinges on whether the child's income is more than half of their support.
  • Parent's Role in Filing: The child's name and information must be included on the parent’s return if filing together, impacting the parent's overall tax situation.
  • Use of Tax Professionals: Consulting with a tax professional using form-specific software or desktop tools is advisable for complex situations.
  • Full-Time Student Criteria: Special rules apply to full-time students aged 19 to 24 regarding the filing requirements.
  • Tax Years 2018 and 2019: Be aware of any changes or updates in the rules applicable to different tax years.
  • Tax Liability and Marginal Tax Rate: Understanding how unearned income includes interest, dividends, and royalties is crucial for calculating the child's marginal tax rate and overall tax liability.
  • Filing for Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends: For those receiving Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, specific rules also apply whether filing a separate return or included in a parent’s return.
  • Eligibility for Deductions and Exclusions: Determine eligibility for any applicable deductions or exclusions, such as for legally adopted children or stepchildren.
  • Maximizing Refunds: Understanding these rules can help ensure every dollar is accounted for, potentially leading to a maximum refund.
  • Importance of Social Security Numbers (SSN): An SSN is essential for filing and processing Form 8615.
  • Diverse Income Sources: The form may include income from self-employment, requiring additional calculations and worksheets.
  • One-on-One Assistance: Seek in-person, one-on-one tax help for personalized advice and informational resources.
  • Digital Tools: Utilize digital platforms like ProConnect for more insights and assistance.
  • 1040 Return Considerations: The filing of Form 8615 directly affects the child's or family’s 1040 return, especially when claiming dependents.
  • Obligation to File: Children and parents must file Form 8615 if the child’s unearned income surpasses the threshold set for the tax year.

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December 6, 2023


Luis Rivero, CPA

Luis Rivero, CPA


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