Do Homeless People Pay Taxes?

A woman helps a man file his taxes.

When people with homes and families and regular lives see homeless people on the streets, they often assume that they have no income or don’t have jobs. This couldn’t be further from the truth because it’s actually very rare to find a homeless person who does not have some source of income.

This could be funds coming from a job, social security or disability benefits, or even self-employment. Many homeless people make money by collecting cans and bottles and then returning them in for a redemption fee through their state, while others simply beg for money outside businesses or on street corners. The money earned or received in all of these scenarios qualifies as taxable income, but only if they earn enough to reach a certain amount within a year.


When Do Homeless People Have to File Taxes?
While most homeless people receiving money in the form of cash probably do not report their income to the IRS, those who have jobs or traceable types if income most definitely do have to report this income and file taxes if they make a certain amount. This amount is the same amount that applies to non-homeless people and it changes each year.

In 2018, homeless people and other people had to file their federal taxes in the United States if they made more than $6,350 from working. This applied to anyone under the age of 65 and includes self-employment as well as money made from panhandling. For those older than 65, this amount was $7,900. In 2017, these amounts were completely different and will most likely always be different as politics, laws, and government policies do change just about every year.


How Do They File?
People who are living on the streets are no different than anybody else when it comes to filing their taxes and sending them to the IRS. They can file them digitally, using a computer and the internet, or they can print out their 1040 form and other IRS forms to mail them in. Most people who are homeless, at least in big cities and urban areas, know where their local library is located.

At most libraries, you can use the internet and print the IRS tax forms to fill out, or you can file a digital tax return on the IRS’s website. However, while the internet is normally free at most libraries, printing forms or other pieces of paper usually costs something, whether it be a dime or a quarter.

Also, stamps and envelopes will cost money as well and you’ll have to visit a grocery store, a post office, or some other type of store for these. Some homeless shelters and charity organizations even offer forms, stamps and envelopes for homeless people who need to do their taxes.


What Address Can Homeless People Use to Receive Tax Refunds?
As far as addresses, those who have no permanent address have a few different options you might not have thought about. When I was homeless myself, I received all my mail at a local church that was known for providing this service.

If you’re homeless yourself, it’s best to talk to other people who are homeless and ask them where they receive their mail. Sometimes word of mouth is the best way to find resources in the city and it’s how I found the local church that offered this. In every large city, there’s normally at least one church or charity group that allows people to have mail sent to them and who will allow mail pick-up on certain days of the week.Of course, you’ll want to keep your amount of mail to a minimum as they may discontinue this type of service if people start abusing it and making too much work for those who sort it at the church.

Another option is direct deposit if you have a bank account. The IRS allows direct deposit if you provide some basic information to them about your bank such as your account number and the name on your account. More and more people are using this service every year as it’s the quickest way to get your tax refund. Homeless people often need their tax refunds back faster than most people because it can mean the difference between sleeping on the streets another month or renting a room.

Of course, not everybody who is homeless has bank accounts or trusts giving the government their bank account information. In this case, another option to receive mail would be a USPS post office box (aka P.O. box) or even a P.O. box offered by a private mailbox and shipping company. Most large cities have private companies that offer these services as well.The downside to P.O. boxes is that they will cost a monthly fee, regardless of who you go through, and the ones at an official post office often have long waiting lists in some cities as they are in high demand.


Tax Assistance
For those who need help with their taxes and who can’t afford an accountant or financial expert, keep in mind that filing with many services and programs online such as H&R Block and TurboTax is free to file as long as you’re willing to pay them later when you receive your tax return. They will normally deduct a fee out of the tax return itself automatically if you sign-up through the IRS to have your funds direct deposited into a bank account. In my experience, this is by far the easiest way to file and pay for things without it costing you anything upfront.

Now if you feel that even with these programs, your taxes are too complicated to file on your own or you just feel like you need help or advice, there are many services for homeless and low-income individuals in the United States and in other countries that are there to help you for either a very low fee or no charge at all.

Some churches actually offer this type of assistance, while some charity groups and even homeless shelters do as well. It’s best to visit your local social services office to inquire if they have any lists of places in your area that can provide assistance. You can also visit the IRS website directly as they have a program called “VITA (The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance)” which keeps a list and a locator of all organizations and groups in your local area that have reputable volunteers that can help you for free with your taxes.