Your filing status is used to determine:
- Filing Requirements
- Standard Deduction
- Eligibility for certain credits
You are able to choose between Single, Married Filing a Joint return, Married Filing Separate returns, Head of Household and Qualifying Surviving Spouse.
Your filing status is single if, on the last day of the year, you are unmarried or have a legal separation from your spouse, and you do not qualify for another filing status.
- Taxpayer was never married
- Taxpayer divorced and divorce was finalized by Dec. 31 of the tax year you are filing (If taxpayer is legally separated, you are still considered to be married and cannot use this status)
- Taxpayer was widowed before January 1 of the tax year and did not remarry before end of the year. If taxpayer has a qualifying child, the Qualifying Surviving Spouse status may be used.
Married Filing Jointly
On a joint return, you report your combined income and expenses. You can file jointly if only one spouse had income or deductions. If you file jointly, your tax liability may be lower than the tax liability if you file separate. Your standard deduction may be more, and you may qualify for tax benefits that do not apply to other filing statuses.
- Married at the end of the tax year (even if you did not live with your spouse)
- Spouse died during the tax year and you did not remarry before the end of the year
- Married during the tax year and your spouse died in the following year
Married Filing Separately
You may choose to file separate returns even if you are married. You may choose this if you wish to be responsible for only your own tax or if it lowers your tax liability. If you and your spouse do not wish to file a joint return, you must file as married filing separate unless you qualify for head of household status.
NOTE: When one spouse itemizes their deductions, the other spouse must also itemize on their return.
- Married at the end of the tax year and wish to file separate income tax returns
- Spouse itemizes- you must itemize also
- Cannot claim:
- Student Loan Interest Deduction
- Education Credits
- Earned Income Credit
Head of Household
Taxpayer is (one of the following):
- Married person living apart from spouse for the last 6 months of the tax year
- You were legally separated according to your state law under a decree of
divorce or separate maintenance at the end of the tax year. But if, at the end of the tax year, your divorce wasn't final (an interlocutory decree), you are considered married
AND (all of the following apply)
- provides more than 50% support for a qualifying person
- provides more than 50% for the upkeep of the home,
- the home is the principle residence of the qualifying person
Qualifying Surviving Spouse
If your spouse died in a previous year, you may qualify to use qualifying surviving spouse for two years following your spouse's death.
- Your spouse died within the two years prior to the tax year you are filing and you did not remarry before the end of the tax year.
- You have a child or stepchild whom you can claim as a dependent
- the child lived in your home for all of the tax year
- you paid more than 50% of the cost of keeping up your home
- you could have filed a joint return with your spouse in the year the spouse died
Not sure what status to use?
If you are unsure what filing status you should use, we recommend you use the IRS interactive tool What Is My Filing Status?. The interview takes about 5 minutes online and the answer you receive is based on information provided by you in response to the questions answered.