Individual Income Filing Requirements

Individuals Required to File a North Carolina Individual Income Tax return

The following individuals are required to file a 2020 North Carolina individual income tax return:

  • Every resident of North Carolina whose gross income for the taxable year exceeds the amount shown in the Filing Requirements Chart for Tax Year 2020 for the individual's filing status.
  • Every part-year resident who received income while a resident of North Carolina or who received income while a nonresident that was (1) attributable to the ownership of any interest in real or tangible personal property in North Carolina, or (2) derived from a business, trade, profession, or occupation carried on in North Carolina, or (3) derived from gambling activities in North Carolina and whose total gross income for the taxable year exceeds the amount shown in the Filing Requirements Chart for Tax Year 2020.
  • Every nonresident who received income for the taxable year from North Carolina sources that was (1) attributable to the ownership of any interest in real or tangible personal property in North Carolina, or (2) derived from a business, trade, profession, or occupation carried on in North Carolina, or (3) derived from gambling activities in North Carolina and whose total gross income from all sources both inside and outside of North Carolina for the taxble year exceeds the amount shown in the Filing Requirements Chart for Tax Year 2020.  For nonresident business and employees engaged in disaster relief work at the request of a critical infrastructure company, refer to the Personal Tax Division Bulletins.

Gross income means all income you received in the form of money, goods, property, and services that isn’t exempt from tax, including any income from sources outside North Carolina. Do not include any social security benefits in gross income unless: (a) you are married filing a separate return and you lived with your spouse at any time in 2020, or (b) one-half of your social security benefits plus your other gross income and any tax-exempt interest is more than $25,000 ($32,000 if married filing jointly). If (a) or (b) applies, see the federal Form 1040 Instructions to figure the taxable part of social security benefits you must include in gross income. For more information on federal gross income, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov and review the federal Form 1040 Instructions.

Note: The minimum gross income filing requirements under North Carolina law are different from the filing requirements under the Internal Revenue Code because North Carolina law does not allow the same standard deduction amount as the Internal Revenue Code.

Filing Requirements Chart for Tax Year 2020

Filing Status A Return is Required if Federal Gross Income Exceeds
Single $10,750
Married - Filing Joint Return $21,500
Married - Filing Separate Return  
If spouse does not claim itemized deductions $10,750
If spouse claims itemized deductions $0
Head of Household $16,125
Qualifying Widow(er)/Surviving Spouse $21,500
Nonresident alien $0

Joint Returns

G.S. 105-153.8(e) requires a married couple to file a joint State income tax return if:

  1.  They file a joint federal income tax return, and 
  2.  Both spouses are residents of North Carolina or both spouses had North Carolina taxable income.

Generally, all other individuals may file separate returns.

On joint returns, both spouses are jointly and severally liable for the tax due.  A spouse will be allowed relief from a joint State income tax liability if the spouse qualifies for innocent spouse relief of the joint federal tax liability under Code section 6105.

A married couple who files a joint federal income tax return may file a joint State return even if one spouse is a nonresident and had no North Carolina income.  However, the spouse required to file a North Carolina return has the option of filing the State return as married filing separately.  Once a married couple files a joint return, they cannot choose to file separate returns for that year after the due date of the return.  If an individual chooses to file a separate North Carolina return, the individual must complete either a federal return as married filing separately, reporting only that individual's income and deductions, or a schedule showing the computation of that individual's separate income and deductions and attach it to the North Carolina return.  In addition, a copy of the complete joint federal return must be included unless the federal return reflects a North Carolina address.

Itemized nonbusiness deductions of a married couple may be claimed by a spouse only if that spouse was obligated to pay the items and actually paid the amount during the year.  In the case of a joint obligation (such as mortgage interest and real estate taxes), the deduction is allowable to the spouse who actually paid the item.