Tax guide

Filing Status

Why do I need to know my filing status?

Determining your filing status is the first step in determining your filing requirements, standard deduction, tax breaks, and tax bracket. For a quick overview of filing statuses, see our infographic.infographic on filing status

How do I figure out my filing status?

Your filing status will usually be determined by whether you are married or unmarried, and typically your marital status on the last day of the tax year determines your status for the whole year.

If your spouse passed away during the year, however, you are considered married for that year.

Single

You can only file as single if you are unmarried or considered unmarried for the entire year. If you claim dependents, you may be able to file as head of household, which usually saves you taxes over filing as single.

Married Filing Jointly

If you are married or are considered married, and you and your spouse agree, you can file a joint return. Filing jointly usually saves you taxes over filing separately.

You are considered married if any of the following are true:

  • You are married and living together
  • 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

Also, it’s important to remember that 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.

Married Filing Separately

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, and deductions. Filing separate returns usually results in a higher combined tax.

Head of Household

Filing as head of household usually results in lower taxes than filing singly or married filing separately. You can file as head of household if:

  • You are single or unmarried.
  • You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home.
  • You had a qualifying child or relative who lived with you in the home for more than half the year.
    • If the qualifying relative is your parent, he or she does not have to live with you. You must be able to claim the parent as a dependent, and you must pay more than half of the cost of the parent's household expenses.

If you are married but can be considered unmarried, you can file as head of household if:

  • You and your spouse file separately.
  • You pay more than 50% of the expenses of maintaining the household.
  • Your spouse did not live in the home for the last 6 months of the year.
  • The household is the principal home of a qualifying person or child.
  • You can claim a qualifying person or child as a dependent.

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 relative; you’ll need a qualifying child or relative to claim the head of household status.

Qualifying Widows and Widowers

If your spouse died during the year, you generally can file a joint return. For two years after the death of your spouse you can file as qualifying widow(er), provided that:

  • You did not remarry.
  • You qualified to file married filing jointly with your spouse in the year your spouse died.
  • You pay more than 50% of the expenses of maintaining the household.
  • Your home is the principal home for a qualifying child.
  • You can claim a qualifying child as a dependent.

Need help choosing a status? Login and chat with us!

Sometimes all the rules can be a bit much—we get that, and it’s why our support team is ready to help with Live Chat. We’ll help you figure out which status best fits your situation if you’re having trouble, and then we’ll guide you through the rest of the process.

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