Choosing the correct filing status is critical in the preparation of your tax return, because it determines what tax bracket you fall in and how your tax is calculated. The filing status options you must choose from are: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, or qualifying widow/widower.
Filing Status: Single
To qualify as a single taxpayer the individual must be unmarried, divorced, legally separated according to state law on the last day of the tax year, or a registered domestic partner in the current tax year they are filing. If you do not qualify for any other tax filing status you must use single.
Filing Status: Married Filing Jointly
To qualify for married filing jointly filing status you must be married by the last day of the tax year. To be considered married during the tax year any of the following must be true:
- You were legally married, living together as husband and wife, wife and wife, or husband and husband
- You were living together as husband and wife, wife and wife, or husband and husband in states that recognize common law marriage
- You were legally married living apart, but made no action to legalize your separation
- You were legally separated, and your divorce has not been finalized
- Your spouse died during the tax year
Utilizing this filing status, you would record both the taxpayer and spouse’s income, exemptions, and deductions on one tax return. Before filing a tax return, consult with your spouse on which filing status would be most beneficial.
Filing Status: Married Filing Separately
To qualify for married filing separately filing status you must be married by the last day of the tax year. To be considered married during the tax year reference the above situations in the married filing jointly section. Utilizing this filing status, you would record both your and your spouse’s income, exemptions, and deductions on separate tax returns. Filing married filing separately will also disqualify you for certain credits including the Earned Income Credit, American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Education Credit, and Child and Dependent Care Credits.
Filing Status: Head of Household
To qualify for head of household filing status you must be single or unmarried and have a qualifying dependent. You must also maintain a residence for more than six months, excluding temporary absences, out of the tax year and provide more than 50% support for that qualifying dependent. Temporary absences include:
- Military Service
*NOTE: It must be reasonable to assume that the absent person will return home after the temporary absence.*
Filing Status: Qualifying Widow/Widower
To qualify for qualifying widow/widower filing status you and your spouse must have qualified for the married filing jointly filing status in the year of the spouse’s death. You are only available to file as a qualifying widow or widower for two years after your spouse has passed away. In order to qualify for this filing status, you will also need to maintain a household, and pay more than 50% of the cost of maintaining that home, for you and your deceased spouse’s dependent. In order to qualify you may not remarry.
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