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Talking taxes: Why do seniors still have to pay taxes?

We are taking your questions to the tax experts so you are armed with information ahead of Tax Day.
Posted at 1:22 PM, Mar 19, 2024

The deadline to file taxes is less than a month away. The IRS says more than 63 million people have already filed ahead of the April 15 deadline. 

This week, Scripps News is taking viewers' questions to the tax experts. 

One viewer asked why older Americans still have to pay taxes, especially those on Social Security. 

Mark Steber, chief tax information officer at Jackson Hewitt, explained that paying taxes has nothing to do with the age of a person; people file because they have income.

"Social Security can be taxable, but only if you have other earnings," he said. 

Fewer Americans getting tax refunds this tax season
File photo of tax forms.

Fewer Americans getting tax refunds this tax season

Despite fewer Americans receiving refunds, those who are getting money back are seeing larger checks.


Another viewer asked, "We have a child, but we're not together. Who gets to claim her?"

"The person who gets the dependent and all that goes with it — which can range from the child tax credit, the dependent care credit, even higher earned income credit — is the custodial parent, typically who the child lives with for more than half of the year and provides more than 50% of the care and expense," Steber said.

While a lot of Americans are looking forward to tax refunds, many other Americans will have to pay the IRS. So, what happens if you can't afford to send the federal government a check?

Steber advises people not to ignore their tax bill, noting the IRS will make attempts to collect the debt. He also advises reaching out to a tax expert to discuss payment options. 

"They can usually put you on a payment plan or even get some of the taxes forgiven if you're really in an upside-down situation," he said. 

@scrippsnews Have you filed your #taxes yet? As of March 8, less than half of tax returns had been received, according to the IRS. Here are some tips to pay attention to in order to maximize your return before you hit submit. #TaxReturn ##moneytips ♬ original sound - Scripps News