From the Archives: Yes, You Have to File a Tax Return Even If You’re 72 Years Old

It’s a holiday week, so I’m re-publishing popular posts from days gone by.

This post has been an enduring favorite even though it was written 5 years ago.

Image courtesy of user "cbaquiran" on
Image courtesy of user

I don’t know the origin of this rumor, nor do I understand why the rumor would settle on “72” as the magical age. At any rate, Google brings many people to my blog who are searching on the topic of 72 being the age you can stop filing tax returns.

Side note about this post: readers have taken me to task over the “asterisk” part at the end, because they believe I over-simplify the income limits relating to taxation of Social Security. Looking at it again, I can see the point, as I did word it poorly.


Originally published November 17, 2011

In a strange Tax Court case Wednesday, the Court ruled against a man who quit filing tax returns when he turned 72 years old.  According to the Court report:

Petitioner did not file Federal income tax returns for the tax years 1999 through 2005. Petitioner believed that once he turned 72 years old, he did not have to pay taxes anymore.

The Court obviously ruled against the man.  He now owes taxes for those years and the Court also added on penalties:

Petitioner seeks relief from these additions to tax, arguing that he is ignorant of and has misinterpreted the law. Petitioner’s mistake as to or ignorance of the law does not amount to reasonable cause, and thus his argument will not relieve him from the imposition of these additions to tax.

The moral?  File your tax returns, no matter how old or young you are.*

The Court ruling can be found here.

*-If your income is below certain levels, you do NOT have to file a tax return. For example, a single person over age 65 does not have to file a tax return unless their income exceeds $10,950 (in 2011). Social Security benefits are generally NOT included in the income calculation unless your other income exceeds $25,000 if single or $32,000 if married. Refer to Table 1-1 on Page 6 of IRS Publication 17 for more information.