IRS Tax Return Filing Status

What is my filing status?

The first thing you need to do when you prepare a tax return is to choose your filing status. Your IRS tax filing status is a classification that determines many things about your tax return. Choosing the right filing status will get you the lowest taxes and the biggest refund. In most cases it is very simple to pick e.g. if you are single and have never been married.

It can get a bit more complicated if you are single and have qualifying dependents e.g. a child or relatives. Here you don't have to read a lot of Tax Mumbo Jumbo to find out what your correct filing status is. Simple use this STATucator below and click on Get Your Filing Status and you get the answer. If you are not sure if one your your dependents or relatives might indeed qualify to be a dependent on your tax return use the DEPENDucator or the RELucator and get the answer.

Filing status is used to determine such things as: filing requirements, tax rates, standard deduction, and eligibility for tax credits and tax deductions.

We have a very simple question and answer tool that helps you determined your correct Filing Status: The STATucator will determine whether you should file as Single or Head of Household for example. tax returns as well!

Get Your Filing Status Now

Five Tax Return Filing Status Types

There are five different choices of filing status, but you can only qualify for one or two in any given year, depending on your circumstances. You can only choose one filing status on your tax return, but your filing status may change from year to year.

  • Single
  • Head of Household
  • Married Filing Jointly
  • Married Filing Separately
  • Qualifying Widow(er)

Single Filing Status

The Single filing status is the most basic among the filing status options. You must file as single if you were not married on the last day of the Tax Year and you do not qualify for any other filing status. If you have dependents you might qualify as Head of Household. Also, if your spouse passed on during a tax year you might can still file as married filing jointly or separate even if you are now a qualifying widower. Again, if in doubt use the STATucator Now.

Not sure if your dependent(s) or relative(s) qualify as dependent(s) on your tax return? Fire up the DEPENDucator or the RELucator and get the answer.

Head of Household

You may qualify for Head of Household filing status if you were single and you paid more than half the costs of keeping up a home, and you had a Qualifying Dependent or Person. Use the HOHucator to find out if you qualify.

Under certain circumstances, you might be able to file as Head of Household as a single person or even if you are technically still legally married. If you lived apart from your spouse for the last half of the year, and if you keep up a home for a dependent child, you might qualify for Head of Household.

Learn about the tax implications or planning steps if you are a single parent or single and pregnant now.

Married Filing Jointly, Separately

Other than being married, there are no special qualifications for the Married Filing Jointly or MFJ and the Married Filing Separately or MFS filing statuses. You and your spouse may choose whether to file Jointly or Separately, but you must both use the same filing status for the year. In other words, one spouse can not file as MFJ and the other as MFS for the same tax year.

Generally, the Married Filing Jointly filing status is more tax beneficial. You can choose Married Filing Separately if you are married and want to be responsible only for your own tax liability, and not your spouse's liability. You can also file separately if you determine that you will get a bigger refund (or lower tax liability) than if you filed jointly. You must use this filing status if you were married on December 31 but you and your spouse (or now ex-spouse) cannot agree to file a joint return.

It is a good idea to weigh the benefits of each married filing status before deciding on which one to use. Determining your marital status will narrow your choices of filing status. As a general rule, your marital status on the last day of the Tax Year (December 31) is your marital status for the entire Tax Year.

You are considered to have been married for the entire Tax Year if, on December 31, any of the following was true:

  • You were legally married and living together as husband and wife, wife and wife or husband and husband.
  • You were living together as husband and wife - husband/husband or wife/wife - in a state-recognized common law marriage.
  • You were legally married but living apart, and have not made any action to legalize your separation.
  • You were legally separated under an interlocutory decree of divorce, but your divorce has not been finalized.
  • Your spouse died during the Tax Year. (you may still be able to file a joint tax return.)

Learn about the tax consequences of taxes and marriage.

You are considered unmarried for the entire Tax Year if, on December 31, any of the following was true:

  • You were never married.
  • You were legally separated (but not under an interlocutory decree of divorce).
  • Your were divorced and your divorce decree was finalized.
  • Your marriage was annulled with an official court decree of annulment.
  • You were still legally married, but were considered unmarried for the purpose of qualifying for the Head of Household filing status.

Tax Tips: Innocent versus Injured Spouse

Innocent Spouse: If you file as MFJ both individuals are equally responsible for all taxes owed if there is a balance due. This is also called joint and several tax liability, as a married filing jointly couple is liable for taxes even if the additional taxes are the result of income, deductions, or credits of a spouse or former spouse. Thus, you might want to consider the Innocent Spouse consideration if you think your current their spouse or former spouse should only be held responsible for all or part of the tax liabilities, penalties and interest.

Injured Spouse: If you prepared and filed or e-Filed a married filing joint income tax return and if one spouse is not responsible for the current or past debt's of the other spouse, then the spouse might be entitled to request his or her portion of the IRS tax refund back from the IRS in case the IRS has offset the tax refund to pay the spouse's debt. In that case, consider the Injured Spouse option.

Qualifying Widow(er)

Find out your filing status in case your spouse deceased during the tax year: Qualifying Widow(er)

You may file as a Qualifying Widow or Widower for the two years following the year of your spouse's death if you support a dependent child. No matter what your filing status, eFile.com makes it easy to prepare and file a tax return! We will apply all of the correct rates and amounts based on your filing status. You enter the information, and we do all the math for you. Plus, we guarantee 100% calculation accuracy!

Use any of the other free tax estimator and tax calculator tools that help you find answers to your personal questions.

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