What Do the Different Filing Statuses Mean?

What are you? That may sound like a trick question, but we’re talking taxes. The IRS provides five different filing statuses: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, or qualifying widow(er) with dependent child.

You can only choose one, right? No, not necessarily.

Is it important which filing status you claim? Yes, it’s very important. Your status will determine how much taxes you’ll have to pay.

Ideally, you should choose a category that allows you to pay the least amount in taxes.

So, what do the different categories mean, and which one should you choose?

  • Single: Use this if you are not married or are divorced or legally separated under your state law.
  • Married filing jointly: If you’re married, you can file a joint return with your spouse. If your spouse dies, you can file in this category during the year of your spouse’s death.
  • Married filing separately: If you’re married, you may file two separate returns. This may allow you to pay less taxes. However, if you’re interested in this option, you should try preparing your taxes both jointly and separately (before filing) to determine which one allows you to pay less taxes. This may also work if both you and your spouse want to retain individual responsibility for each own’s taxes.
  • Head of household: You may use this filing status if you’re not married (in most cases). The IRS has special rules for using this one; you may use this if you paid more than half of the costs for upkeeping the home where you and a qualifying person live.
  • Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child: You can use this status if your spouse died in the previous two years and you have a dependent child.

Check the IRS rules carefully to determine your filing status: https://www.irs.gov/help/ita/what-is-my-filing-status.

Other details may apply, and you can find more information on the IRS website.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.

 

Tip adapted from the IRS.gov[i]

[i] https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/here-are-facts-to-help-taxpayers-understand-the-different-filing-statuses

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