Tuesday Tax Tip: Filing Status for Federal Tax Returns
Determining your correct filing status for your federal tax return can be a little tricky. There are 5 different categories with each offering different deductions and exemptions that can affect your tax liability. To maximize your money, it is important to decide which filing status you can use that also offers the best opportunity to lower your tax bill.
How To Determine Tax Filing Status
Tip: Your marital status on the last day of the year determines your status for the entire year. So, if you were married on December 1st, you are considered married for the entire year.
Review each category to help discover your federal tax return filing status.
Single Filing Status
- Single without any dependents
- Widowed more than one year and without any dependents
- Widowed for more than two years
- Legally separated according to your state law under a divorce decree or separate maintenance
Married Filing Jointly & Qualifying Widower Filing Status
- Widowed in current tax year and did not remarry
- Married at the end of year, even if you did live together
- Married and living together
- Married and living together, but not legally separated or divorced
- Separated under an interlocutory (not final) divorce decree
- Living in a common-law marriage if common-law marriage is recognized in the state where you currently reside or in the state where the marriage began.
- Note for Qualifying Widow (er): If one spouse died during the year, the surviving spouse can file married filing jointly with the deceased spouse if the couple meets one of the above examples on the date of death and the surviving spouse did not remarry during 2010.
- Note for Same-sex couples: You can not file as married filing jointly. This law applies to same-sex couples who reside in states which sanction and recognize same-sex marriages.
Married Filing Separately Filing Status
- Married not filing with spouse and have no dependents.
- Widowed in current tax year, ineligible for joint return (see Married Filing Jointly for more information) & no dependents
Head of Household Filing Status
- Single with a dependent residing in your permanent residence
- Widowed with a dependent residing in your permanent residence
- Married, not filing w/spouse, with a dependent residing with you. In order to qualify as head of household when married, you must meet certain tests to be considered unmarried. To be considered “unmarried”, a taxpayer must meet all of the following:
• Be a U.S. citizen or resident during the entire year
• Files a separate return from spouse
• Taxpayer paid more than half the cost of keeping up his or her home during the year
• Taxpayer’s spouse did not live in the home during the last six months of the year;
• Taxpayer’s home was the main home for more than half the year for either of the following: (a) the individual’s qualifying child; or (b) the individual’s qualifying relative who is the individual’s dependent
- Under certain situations, a divorced parent that is a custodial parent and has released the right to claim the exemption deduction for a child to the noncustodial parent, head of household status can be filed for the custodial parent.
Qualifying Widow (er) with Dependent Filing Status
Taxpayers with a dependent child for two years following the year of the death of a spouse. Although this filing status is similar to the rules for Head of Household status, the Head of Household does not require the qualifying child or relative be a dependent. The Qualifying Widower status does require the taxpayer to have a dependent.
- Two years following the spouse’s death and not remarried. (This status is not used for the year of death for a spouse.)
- Paid more than half the cost of maintaining the home of your dependent child for the entire tax year.
- Must have been otherwise entitled to file a joint tax return for the year of death. (It is not necessary that a joint return was actually filed.)
√ Check out IRS.gov IRS Publication 501: Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information (PDF) for more information on all the available filing statuses.
√ Review an earlier post for standard deductions for each filing status.
√ State and federal taxes can be confusing and complex, you should contact your tax advisor on what you can and can not include on your tax return.