Filing Status

Your filing status determines your filing requirements, standard deduction, and correct tax. It also determines whether you are eligible to claim certain other deductions and credits.

There are five filing statuses:

1. Single

A taxpayer is unmarried if:

  • The taxpayer has never married,
  • The taxpayer was legally separated, according to state law, under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance.
  • The taxpayer’s spouse died before the beginning of the year and the taxpayer did not remarry in that same year.

2. Married Filing Jointly

You can choose married filing jointly as your filing status if you are married and both you and your spouse agree to file.

3. Married Filing Separately

You can choose married filing separately as your filing status if you are married. This method may be beneficial if you want to be responsible only for your own tax or if this method results in less tax than a joint return. If you choose married filing separately, special rules apply. Because of these rules, you will usually pay more tax on a separate return than if you used another filing status for which you qualify.

4. Head of Household

You may be able to file as head of household if the following requirements are met:

  • You are unmarried or considered unmarried on the last day of the year.
  • You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home.
  • A qualifying person lived with you in the home for more than half the year, except for temporary absences. However, if the qualifying person is your dependent parent, he or she does not have to live with you, but you must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home that was the main home of the parent for the entire year.

But, you cannot file head of household using a person as your dependent only because:

  • They lived with you the entire year, or
  • You are entitled to claim them under a multiple support agreement.

5. Qualifying widow(er) with Dependent Child

If your spouse died in the current tax year, you can use married filing jointly as your filing status, if you otherwise qualify to use that status. You may be eligible to use qualifying widow(er) with dependent child as your filing status for 2 years following the year in which the spouse died. This gives you the benefit of using the joint filing rates and the highest standard deduction amount.

To be eligible to file as a qualifying widow(er) with dependent child, you must meet the following tests:

  • You were entitled to file jointly with your spouse for the year your spouse died.
  • Your spouse died in either of the two preceding years and you did not remarry
    before the end of the current tax year.
  • You have a child or stepchild for whom you can claim an exemption.
  • You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a main home for you and that
    child for the entire year except for temporary absences.
For more information, read IRS Pub 501