Summer Jobs & Taxes
Updated: Apr 27, 2020
Maybe you attend school for most of the year or work in a profession where your skills are only in demand during the summer months. Regardless of the reason for your seasonal employment, the tax implications of your summer earnings are the same as when you earn income from a full-time job.
If you normally file a tax return each year because you have other employment obligations or income from other sources, you'll probably notice that your summer earnings aren't subject to any special tax rules.
All taxpayers, including students, whose sole source of income is from a summer job, may want to determine whether the filing of a tax return is even necessary. The income you earn during the summer is certainly taxable, but since you only work three months out of the year, your level of income may not require a tax return or any payment of tax.
The IRS requires you to file a tax return when your total income is at least equal to the sum of the standard deduction for your filing status and one personal exemption, or two exemptions if filing a joint return. Now this doesn't necessarily mean you will pay tax on your summer job earnings, just that you need to file a tax return.
To illustrate, suppose your only income for the year is the $5,000 you earn at a summer job. If the sum of your standard deduction and exemption is $9,500 (this amount changes from year to year), you don't have to file a tax return or pay any federal income tax on your summer earnings.
However, if your summer earnings exceed this sum, you may owe tax on the excess, but this also depends on whether you're eligible to claim other deductions and credits on your return, like education credits for college.
Also keep in mind that if another taxpayer claims you as their dependent, such as your parent, you still must file a tax return in some situations. But since dependents can never claim their own personal exemption, you will need to file a tax return when your summer income exceeds the standard deduction available to a single filer.
There will be times when you may want to file a tax return even though the IRS doesn't require you to do so. This generally occurs when your employer withholds income taxes from your wages despite the fact you don't owe income tax at the end of the year. Since you are entitled to a refund, the only way to obtain it is by filing a tax return.