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Publication 501 - Introductory Material

What's New

Who must file.  In some cases, the amount of income you can receive before you must file a tax return has increased. Table 1 shows the filing requirements for most taxpayers.

Exemption amount. The amount you can deduct for each exemption has increased. It was $4,000 for 2015. It is $4,050 for 2016.

Exemption phaseout. You lose at least part of the benefit of your exemptions if your adjusted gross income is above a certain amount. For 2016, the phaseout begins at $155,650 for married individuals filing separate returns; $259,400 for single individuals; $285,350 for heads of household; and $311,300 for married individuals filing joint returns or qualifying widow(er)s. See Phaseout of Exemptions , later.

Standard deduction increased.  The standard deduction for some taxpayers who don't itemize their deductions on Schedule A of Form 1040 is higher for 2016 than it was for 2015. The amount depends on your filing status. You can use the 2016 Standard Deduction Tables near the end of this publication to figure your standard deduction.


Future developments. Information about any future developments affecting Pub. 501 (such as legislation enacted after we release it) will be posted at

Taxpayer identification number for aliens.  If you are a nonresident or resident alien and you don't have and aren't eligible to get a social security number (SSN), you must apply for an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). Your spouse also may need an ITIN if he or she doesn't have and isn't eligible to get an SSN. See Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. Also, see Social Security Numbers for Dependents , later.

Photographs of missing children.  The Internal Revenue Service is a proud partner with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Photographs of missing children selected by the Center may appear in this publication on pages that would otherwise be blank. You can help bring these children home by looking at the photographs and calling 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) if you recognize a child.


This publication discusses some tax rules that affect every person who may have to file a federal income tax return. It answers some basic questions: who must file; who should file; what filing status to use; how many exemptions to claim; and the amount of the standard deduction.

Who Must File explains who must file an income tax return. If you have little or no gross income, reading this section will help you decide if you have to file a return.

Who Should File helps you decide if you should file a return, even if you aren't required to do so.

Filing Status helps you determine which filing status to use. Filing status is important in determining whether you must file a return and whether you may claim certain deductions and credits. It also helps determine your standard deduction and tax rate.

Exemptions, which reduce your taxable income, are discussed in Exemptions .

Exemptions for Dependents explains the difference between a qualifying child and a qualifying relative. Other topics include the social security number requirement for dependents, the rules for multiple support agreements, and the rules for divorced or separated parents.

Phaseout of Exemptions explains how to determine whether you must reduce the dollar amount of exemptions you claim and, if so, the amount of the reduction.

Standard Deduction gives the rules and dollar amounts for the standard deduction — a benefit for taxpayers who don't itemize their deductions. This section also discusses the standard deduction for taxpayers who are blind or age 65 or older, as well as special rules that limit the standard deduction available to dependents. In addition, this section helps you decide whether you would be better off taking the standard deduction or itemizing your deductions.

How To Get Tax Help explains how to get tax help from the IRS.

This publication is for U.S. citizens and resident aliens only. If you are a resident alien for the entire year, you must follow the same tax rules that apply to U.S. citizens. The rules to determine if you are a resident or nonresident alien are discussed in chapter 1 of Pub. 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.

Nonresident aliens.    If you were a nonresident alien at any time during the year, the rules and tax forms that apply to you may be different from those that apply to U.S. citizens. See Pub. 519.

Comments and suggestions.    We welcome your comments about this publication and your suggestions for future editions.

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Internal Revenue Service 
Tax Forms and Publications 
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Ordering forms and publications.    Visit to download forms and publications. Otherwise, you can go to to order current and prior-year forms and instructions. Your order should arrive within 10 business days.

Tax questions.   If you have a tax question not answered by this publication, check and How To Get Tax Help at the end of this publication.

Useful Items - You may want to see:


  • 559 Survivors, Executors, and Administrators

  • 929 Tax Rules for Children and Dependents

Form (and Instructions)

  • 1040X Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return

  • 2848 Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative

  • 8332 Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent

  • 8814 Parents' Election To Report Child's Interest and Dividends

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