How to file a District of Columbia income tax return

Three famous District of Columbia landmarks - the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and Capitol building - at twilight. Image:

In a Nutshell

The Washington, D.C., license plate motto spells out how the district feels about paying federal income taxes: “End Taxation without Representation.” If you live or work in D.C., you may feel similarly about the District of Columbia income tax you probably have to pay.

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This article was fact-checked by our editors and reviewed by Jennifer Samuel, senior product specialist for Credit Karma Tax®.

Washington, D.C., is home to the world’s largest library and the country’s most-powerful political offices.

But since D.C. is a federal district and not a state, its residents don’t have the same voting representation in Congress as the states do. They still have to pay federal income taxes though, which explains why their vehicle license plates feature some type of commentary on “taxation without representation.”

If you live in the nation’s capital, you probably have to file a District of Columbia income tax return and pay local taxes. This guide focuses on some things to know about D.C.’s individual income tax.

The basics of District of Columbia income tax

Taxing body

Washington, D.C.’s Office of Tax and Revenue collects local tax revenues — including personal income tax, real property tax, business tax and sales tax — and administers D.C. tax laws. For questions, call the OTR at 1-202-727-4829 or visit its walk-in customer service center at 1101 Fourth Street SW, Suite W270, Washington, D.C. 20024, from 8:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can get help with tax forms, preparing income tax returns, payment agreements, tracking your refund status and more.

Filing and payment deadline

You must file your D.C. returns and pay any income tax on or by April 15 each year, just as you do with your federal returns most tax years. If the 15th falls on a weekend or a holiday, the deadline shifts to the next business day.

If you need more time, you can get a filing extension for Oct. 15 by submitting a request to the OTR on or before the annual deadline. If you’re living or traveling overseas, you can request an additional filing extension of six months. However, that won’t delay your tax payment. Even if you get an extension, you still have to pay the taxes you owe by the April 15 deadline to avoid interest and penalties on the outstanding balance.

Filing statuses

The District of Columbia recognizes the following filing statuses, which differ slightly from those on your federal return:

  • Single: For filers who are unmarried, divorced or legally separated as of Dec. 31 of the tax year. Filers who have a relationship registered in another jurisdiction can opt to file a separate return as single.
  • Filing jointly: For those who are married or registered domestic partners (even in another jurisdiction) or who were widowed during the tax year and didn’t remarry.
  • Filing separately (on the same return or separate returns): For married couples or registered domestic partners (any jurisdiction) who don’t want to file joint returns.
  • Head of household: For filers who are unmarried or legally separated as of the last day of the filing year and paid more than half the costs of maintaining a home for a qualifying person.
  • Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child: For those who were eligible to file a joint return with their spouse or registered domestic partner in the year of their death. You may also be eligible to use this status for two years following the year of your spouse or registered domestic partner’s death. Other qualifying conditions apply.

You’ll typically select the same filing status on your federal and D.C. tax return when possible. When you’re eligible for more than one filing status, you can choose the status that allows you to pay the lowest taxes.

How filing stats affects your federal income taxes

Income tax rates

D.C. has a progressive income tax system, so the amount you pay rises along with your income. There are six tax brackets.

The individual income tax rates are unchanged for tax years 2016 to 2019.

Taxable income Tax due
Up to $10,000 4% of taxable income
$10,001 to $40,000 $400, plus 6% of the amount over $10,000
$40,001 to $60,000 $2,200, plus 6.5% of the amount over $40,000
$60,001 to $350,000 $3,500, plus 8.5% of the amount over $60,000
$350,001 to $1,000,000 $28,150, plus 8.75% of the amount over $350,000
Above $1,000,000 $85,025, plus 8.95% of the amount over $1,000,000

Some District of Columbia tax deductions and credits to know

Whether you claim the standard deduction or itemize deductions on your federal return to the IRS, you must do the same on your District of Columbia income tax return.

Standard deductions

Beginning with 2018, the District of Columbia’s standard deduction amounts mirror federal amounts:

  • $12,000 for single filers and those married/in a registered domestic partnership and filing separately
  • $18,000 for head of household
  • $24,000 for married/RDP filing jointly and qualifying widow(er) with dependent children

Tax credits and deductions

You may be eligible for some D.C.-specific tax breaks. Here are a few.

  • D.C. earned income tax credit: Eligibility for this refundable credit, which is based on the federal EITC, depends on your filing status and income.
  • D.C. homeowner and rental property tax credit: This is available to qualified D.C. residents who are homeowners and renters whose property taxes (or “rent constituting property taxes” for renters) exceed a certain percentage of their household income.
  • Deductions for contributions to the D.C. Statehood Delegation Fund, Taxpayer Support for Afterschool Programs for At-risk Students, or the Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Fund.

How to file your District of Columbia income tax

You can view, download and print the D-40 or D-40EZ individual income tax forms and file your tax return in one of these ways.

  • E-file — If you meet income and other qualifications, you may be able to file for free through the DCfreefile program. You can also use DCfreefile fillable forms, which are available regardless of income or age. Or you can use a software provider or online filing service, although some may charge a fee depending on your circumstances. Credit Karma Tax®, an online tax preparation and filing service, never charges to help you prepare and file your individual state and federal income tax returns.
  • Get in-person help — The OTR also offers free walk-in help at its customer service center at 1101 Fourth Street SW, Suite W270, Washington, D.C. 20024 from 8:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can get help with tax forms, preparing income tax returns, payment agreements, your refund status and other issues.
  • Send paper forms by mail — If you want to file your D.C. tax returns by mail, you can download tax forms and send them to one of these addresses.

If you include a payment:
Office of Tax and Revenue
P.O. Box 96169
Washington, D.C. 20090-6169

If you don’t owe anything or expect a refund:
Office of Tax and Revenue
P.O. Box 96145
Washington, D.C. 20090-6145

If you owe and can’t pay

If you owe taxes and can’t pay them by the annual deadline, you still must file your D.C. tax return and pay as much as you can. Call the OTR at 1-202-727-4829 or visit its customer service center to explain your plan for paying your balance. If your payment plan is acceptable, the OTR says, it will extend the time you have to pay. However, you may still have to pay penalties and interest on the balance until it’s paid in full. If you don’t contact the OTR and don’t pay your taxes owed, the agency may enforce tax-collection efforts, including potentially filing a tax lien or seizing property.

You may also request an installment payment arrangement from the OTR by logging in to its MyTax.DC.gov site and selecting “Request Payment Plan” under the “I want to” section in your user profile.

Tracking your District of Columbia income tax refund

It typically takes the OTR two to three weeks to process and issue a refund check. To check your refund status, you can call 1-202-727-4829 or go online to MyTax.DC.gov, which has a “Where’s my Refund” option that requires you to input your Social Security number, the tax year and your refund amount.

You can check your refund status within four weeks of mailing a paper return or 14 business days of e-filing a return.


Bottom line

D.C. taxpayers aren’t likely to get seats in Congress any time soon, so taxation without representation likely will continue for the 2018 tax year. But even if you aren’t happy about paying federal and district-level taxes, be sure to comply with the tax rules and submit your D.C. tax returns in time to avoid penalties that could arise from not filing taxes or paying on time.


Jennifer Samuel, senior tax product specialist for Credit Karma Tax®, has more than a decade of experience in the tax preparation industry, including work as a tax analyst and tax preparation professional. She holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Saint Leo University. You can find her on LinkedIn.