Determining your filing status is the first step in determining
your filing requirements, standard deduction and correct tax. Your
filing status will usually be determined by
whether you are married or unmarried. The IRS defines marriage as a
legal union between a man and a woman as husband and wife.
Your marital status on the last day of the tax year determines
your status for the entire year. If you were separated or divorced
under a divorce or separate maintenance decree on the last day of
the year, you are considered unmarried for the entire year. State
law governs whether you are considered married, legally separated
or divorced under decree.
You are considered married if any of the following are true:
You are married and living together as husband and wife.
You are living together in a common-law marriage, where
recognized in the state you live in or in the state where the
common law marriage began.
You are married and living apart but not legally separated by a
divorce or separate maintenance decree.
You are separated under a temporary decree of divorce.
If your spouse died during the year, you are considered married
for the entire year. If you remarried before the end of the year,
you can file jointly with your new spouse and file a married filing
separately return for your deceased spouse.
There are five filing statuses:
Married Filing Jointly
Married Filing Separately
Head of Household
Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child
You can only file as single if you are unmarried or considered
unmarried for the entire year. If claim dependents as an exemption,
you may be able to file as head of household, which usually results
in a lower tax than filing as single.
If you are married or are considered married, and you and your
spouse agree, you can file married filing jointly. Filing jointly
usually results in a lower tax than filing separately.
If you and your spouse elect to file jointly, you both can be
held responsible, separately or together, for the tax and any interest or
penalty due on your return.
If you are married or are considered married and you and your
spouse do not agree to file jointly, you can file married filing
separately. If you file a separate return you generally only report
your own income, credits, exemptions and deductions. Filing
separate returns usually results in a higher combined tax.
Filing as head of household usually results in a lower tax than
filing singly or married filing separately. You can file as head of
household if you are single or unmarried, paid more than half the
cost of keeping up a home, and had a qualifying child or qualifying
relative that lived with you in the home for more than half the
year. But if the qualifying relative is your parent, he or she does
not have to live with you. You must be able to claim an exemption
for the parent, and you must pay more than half of the cost of the
parent's household expenses.
If you are married you can file as head of household if you can
be considered unmarried. All of the following must be true:
You can also file as head of household if your spouse was a
nonresident alien at any time during the year. However, your spouse
does not count as a qualifying person. You must have another person
and meet all the other tests to qualify for head of household.
If your spouse died during the year, you generally can file
married filing jointly. For two years after the death of your
spouse you can file as qualifying widow(er) if all of the following