Teens & Taxes: My Teenager Had a Summer Job — Do They Need to File Taxes?

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Teenagers often begin their working careers with a summer job. Whether they decide to work at the summer camp where they spent so many of their earlier years or grab some hours at their favorite fast food place, a summer job is a great way to build responsibility and earn money for summer fun (or college savings)!

See: Teens & Taxes: How To Help Your Teen Choose and Set Up a Bank Account During Tax Season
Find: Teens & Taxes: Does Your Teen Need To File Taxes for Their Part-time Job?

But as tax season arises, now you may be wondering if your teen needs to file taxes for the money they earned in the summer of 2021. The answer is — it depends.

Teens and W-2 Jobs

Teenagers, just like anyone else in the U.S., must file federal tax returns if their income as a W-2 employee exceeds the standard deduction of $12,550. Let’s do the math and see if it’s likely your teen has to file taxes.

Assuming your teen works 40 hours a week for 12 weeks of summer, that’s 480 hours. Talent.com pinpoints the average teen salary across the U.S. at roughly $16 an hour. That would equal $7,680 for the entire summer. In that case, they would not have to file a tax return this year.

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Discover: Teens & Taxes: Does Your State Require Your Child to Pay Income Tax?

If your teen is working as an employee, which means they filled out a W-4 form and their employer withholds taxes from each paycheck, they might want to file taxes whether it’s required or not. They might be eligible for a tax refund if they overpaid throughout the summer.

Teens and Gig Work, or Freelancing

If your teen took on gig work over the summer — perhaps as a delivery driver, doing odd jobs through an app, or any other type of contracting work — they might be subject to self-employment tax. If your teen earned more than $400, net, as an independent contractor, they will need to file tax returns and pay self-employment tax.

Learn: Teens & Taxes: Are Working Minors Entitled to a Tax Refund?
Explore: Teens & Taxes: Does Your Teenager Need a Bank Account To Receive a Tax Refund?

If your teen worked side jobs over the summer, the organization that contracted them might send a 1099 form if your teen earned more than $600. If your teen received a 1099 form, they must file a tax return to declare that income and pay self-employment taxes.

Teens who worked side gigs over the summer may have specific deductions that would reduce their taxable income, such as any special training they paid for, tools they used on the job, or their vehicle, gas, and vehicle maintenance if they used their own car on the job.

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About the Author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.
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