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Filing Status

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

There are five filing statuses:

1. Single

Your filing status is single if, on the last day of the year, you are unmarried or legally separated from your spouse under a divorce or separate maintenance decree, and you do not qualify for another filing status.

2. Married Filing Jointly

You can choose married filing jointly as your filing status if you were married during the tax year in question and both you and your spouse agree to file a joint return.

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 the tax on 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. This filing status is usually less beneficial for tax purposes.

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.

You are considered unmarried on the last day of the tax year if you meet all of the following tests:

  • You file a separate return.
  • You paid more than half the cost of keeping up your home for the tax year.
  • Your spouse did NOT live in your home during the last 6 months of the tax year. Your spouse is considered to live in your home even if he/or she is temporarily absent due to special circumstances, such as being on a business trip, in the hospital or being deployed with the military.
  • Your home was the main home of your child, stepchild, or eligible foster child for more than half the year.
  • You must be able to claim an exemption for the child. You can still meet this test if you cannot claim the exemption only because the non custodial parent is allowed to claim the exemption for the child

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.