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29 September 2018 / Personal Taxes

What is my filing status?

29 September 2018 > Personal Taxes

Selecting the correct filing status when completing your income tax return can be the first important step when properly reporting your tax return. This selection can impact the tax benefits you receive, the amount of your standard deduction, and ultimately the amount of taxes you pay. To help guide you in the right direction, find each of the IRS filing statuses below along with relevant descriptions and requirements.


This filing status is used by a taxpayer who is unmarried and does not qualify for any other filing status. Single filers include, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), people who on the last day of the year are unmarried or are legally separated from a spouse under a divorce or separate maintenance decree and do not qualify for another filing status.

Married filing jointly

When filing as married filing jointly, both spouses are equally responsible for the return and the taxes. If either one of the spouses understates the tax due, both are equally liable for the penalties unless the other spouse claims he or she was not aware of the mistake and did not benefit from it.When filing a tax return as married filing jointly, a married couple uses the same tax return to report income, deductions, credits and exemptions.

When filing as married filing jointly, your total combined tax liability is often lower than the sum of spouses' individual tax liabilities, if they were filing separately. This is because of the increased standard deduction allotted to them, in addition to other tax benefits exclusive to this filing status. You can use the married filing jointly filing status if both of the following statements are true:

1. You were married on the last day of the tax year. If you were unmarried, divorced, or legally separated (according to state law) on Dec. 31, then you are considered unmarried for the year. There is an exception to this rule for the death of a spouse.

2. You and your spouse both agree to file a joint tax return.

In addition, if you were not divorced or legally separated on Dec. 31, you are considered unmarried if all of the following apply:

1. You lived apart from your spouse for the last six months of the tax year. (not including temporary absences like business, medical care, school, or military service).

2. You file a separate tax return from your spouse.

3. You paid over half the cost of keeping up your home during the tax year.

4. Your home was the main home of your child, stepchild, or foster child for more than half of the tax year.

Married filing separately

Married filing separately enables a separation of tax liability from your spouse. This filing status may be wise if one spouse suspects the other may be hiding income. Filing as Married filing separately may also be beneficial if both spouses have similar income levels and their combined reported results in entering a higher tax bracket. Likewise, if one spouse has significant itemized deductions that could put them in a lower tax bracket, filing separately may make sense.

Note however, that filing separately will usually disqualify you from valuable tax breaks such as: The child and dependent care credit, hope and lifetime learning credits, and adoption expense credit, as well as deductions for your contributions to a Traditional IRA.

Head of household

While many single people live alone and would therefore consider themselves the head of their own household, the IRS distinguishes between a single filer and a person considered the head of a household. Head of Household status generally only applies to an unmarried person who, for the given tax year has paid more than half of the cost of maintaining a home for themselves and a qualifying person, such as a dependent.

Generally speaking, the qualifying person whom a head of household lives with must be their child, parent or another type of relative. The person may be a domestic partner, as long at that partner does not earn any income, thereby making them considered a dependent.

Surviving Spouse

For up to two years after the death of a spouse, the widow(er) may continue to use the married filing jointly tax rate by filing as a qualified widow(er) with a dependent child, as long as the taxpayer hasn’t remarried.


This should give you a better understanding of the different filing statuses and how they function based on the rules of the IRS. Take the time to weigh your options and see which status would work for you, or benefit you most this tax season. For any further inquiries please contact us via the help chat on the bottom right corner of the Taxfyle website.

Phillip Ingelmo

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