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IRS Tax Filing Status

Determine your tax filing status. Tax brackets [1] and available credits and deductions (either the standard deduction [2] or itemized deductions [3]) depend on a taxpayer’s filing status.

Each taxpayer must select his/her filing status at the top of each tax return.

In most cases only one tax filing status will apply to you. If you qualify under multiple tax statuses, you can choose the one that will allow you to pay the least amount of taxes.

Marital status is determined as of December 31 of the tax year.

Tax Filing Status Options

  • Single: This filing status is for those who are unmarried, divorced or legally separated. If you do not qualify for one of the other statuses, you must file under this status.
  • Married Filing Jointly: This married filing status is for married persons who file one tax return together. Income, deductions, credits and tax liability are considered for the couple as a whole.
  • Married Filing Separately: This married filing status is used by married persons who each file a separate return. Taxpayers using the married filing separate status can only claim limited deductions/credits, resulting in higher taxes for the couple in most cases.
  • Qualifying Widow/Widower: If you have a dependent child, you can use this filing status for two years beginning the year after the year in which your spouse died. In the year your spouse died, you can file Married Filing Jointly. Using the qualified widow/widower filing status allows you to use joint return tax rates and the highest standard deduction [4] amount.
  • Head of Household: You can use the head of household filing status if you are unmarried or “considered unmarried [5]” and pay for at least half of the cost of maintaining a household for yourself and at least one qualified person (such as a child or adult dependent – see Table 4, here [6]), or you provide at least half the support for a parent who may live at another residence. This status often results in lower tax liability than the Single filing status.

For more on choosing your filing status, see IRS Publication 17 [7].

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