General Instructions

Purpose of Form

For children under age 18 and certain older children described below in Who Must File, unearned income over $2,100 is taxed at the parent's rate if the parent's rate is higher than the child's. If the child's unearned income is more than $2,100, use Form 8615 to figure the child's tax.

Unearned Income

For Form 8615, “unearned income” includes all taxable income other than earned income as defined later. Unearned income includes taxable interest, ordinary dividends, capital gains (including capital gain distributions), rents, royalties, etc. It also includes taxable social security benefits, pension and annuity income, taxable scholarship and fellowship grants not reported on Form W-2, unemployment compensation, alimony, and income (other than earned income) received as the beneficiary of a trust.

Who Must File

Form 8615 must be filed for any child who meets all of the following conditions.

  1. The child had more than $2,100 of unearned income.

  2. The child is required to file a tax return.

  3. The child either:

    1. Was under age 18 at the end of 2015,

    2. Was age 18 at the end of 2015 and did not have earned income that was more than half of the child's support, or

    3. Was a full-time student at least age 19 and under age 24 at the end of 2015 and did not have earned income that was more than half of the child's support.

    (Earned income is defined later. Support is defined below.)

  4. At least one of the child's parents was alive at the end of 2015.

  5. The child does not file a joint return for 2015.

For these rules, the term “child” includes a legally adopted child and a stepchild. These rules apply whether or not the child is a dependent. These rules do not apply if neither of the child’s parents were living at the end of the year.

Support.   Your child's support includes all amounts spent to provide the child with food, lodging, clothing, education, medical and dental care, recreation, transportation, and similar necessities. To figure your child's support, count support provided by you, your child, and others. However, a scholarship received by your child is not considered support if your child is a full-time student. For details, see Pub. 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.

Certain January 1 birthdays.   Use the following chart to determine whether certain children with January 1 birthdays meet condition 3 under Who Must File.
IF a child was born on... THEN, at the end of 2015, the child is considered to be...
January 1, 1998 18*
January 1, 1997 19**
January 1, 1992 24***
*This child is not under age 18. The child meets condition 3 only if the child did not have earned income that was more than half of the child's support. 
**This child meets condition 3 only if the child was a full-time student who did not have earned income that was more than half of the child's support. 
***Do not use Form 8615 for this child.

The parent may be able to elect to report the child's interest, ordinary dividends, and capital gain distributions on the parent's return. If the parent makes this election, the child will not have to file a return or Form 8615. However, the federal income tax on the child's income, including qualified dividends and capital gain distributions, may be higher if this election is made. For more details, see Form 8814, Parents' Election To Report Child's Interest and Dividends.

Additional Information

For more details, see Pub. 929, Tax Rules for Children and Dependents.

Incomplete Information for Parent or Other Children

If the parent's taxable income, filing status, or the net unearned income of the parent's other children is not known by the due date of the child's return, reasonable estimates can be used. Enter “Estimated” next to the appropriate line(s) of Form 8615. When the correct information is available, file Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Instead of using estimates, the child can get an automatic 6-month extension of time to file. For details, see Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Amended Return

If the parent’s income changes after the child’s return is filed, the tax must be refigured using the adjusted amounts. The child’s tax must also be refigured if there are changes to the net unearned income of other children for whom the parent is required to file a Form 8615. If the child's tax changes, file Form 1040X to correct the child's tax.

Alternative Minimum Tax

A child whose tax is figured on Form 8615 may owe the alternative minimum tax. For details, see Form 6251, Alternative Minimum Tax—Individuals, and its instructions.

Net Investment Income Tax

A child whose tax is figured on Form 8615 may be subject to the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT). NIIT is a 3.8% tax on the lesser of net investment income or the excess of the child's modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) over the threshold amount. UseForm 8960, Net Investment Income Tax, to figure this tax. For more information on NIIT, go to and enter “Net Investment Income Tax” in the search box.

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