Taxpayers should use the correct filing status for accuracy and avoid surprises
A taxpayer’s filing status typically depends on whether they are single or married on Dec. 31, which determines their filing status for that entire year.
More than one filing status may apply in certain situations. If this is the case, taxpayers can usually choose the filing status that allows them to owe the least amount of tax.
When preparing and filing a tax return, the filing status affects:
- If the taxpayer is required to file a federal tax return
- If they should file a return to receive a refund
- Their standard deduction amount
- If they can claim certain credits
- The amount of tax they should pay
Here are the five filing statuses:
- Single. Normally, this status is for taxpayers who are unmarried, divorced or legally separated under a divorce or separate maintenance decree governed by state law.
- Married filing jointly. If a taxpayer is married, they can file a joint tax return with their spouse. When a spouse passes away, the widowed spouse can usually file a joint return for that year.
- Married filing separately. Married couples can choose to file separate tax returns. When doing so, it may result in less tax owed than filing a joint tax return.
- Head of household. Unmarried taxpayers may be able to file using this status, but special rules apply. For example, the taxpayer must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for themselves and a qualifying person living in the home for half the year.
- Qualifying widow or widower with dependent child. This status may apply to a taxpayer if their spouse died during one of the previous two years and they have a dependent child. Other conditions also apply.