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Choose Your IRS Tax Return Filing Status

Important: Starting with Tax Year 2018 (Jan. - Dec. 2018), tax return filing requirements are changing due to Tax Reform. Our FILEucator tax tool is currently for Tax Year 2017, but you may use it now to get an idea of your 2018 Taxes. We will update the tool and this page as the IRS finalizes the 2018 Tax Return filing requirements. Tax Reform and you? Let help you and become eligible to Tax Win. Find out now.

The first thing you need to do when you prepare a tax return is to choose your filing status.

What Is a Tax 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.

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

What Is My Tax Return Filing Status?

If you need help choosing your filing status, you can use our FREE "STATucator" filing status calculator to determine yours, based on your answers to a short series of questions. Our STATucator is a multi-year tool so you can use it for previous years’ tax returns as well!

What is My Tax Return Filing Status? or

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What Are the Tax Return Filing Statuses?

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.

The five filing statuses are:

  1. Single
  2. Married Filing Jointly
  3. Married Filing Separately
  4. Head of Household
  5. Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child

Tax Return Filings Status

What Are the Types of Tax Return Filing Statuses?

In general, you can divide the filing statuses into two categories: 

How Do I Determine My Marital Status?

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.
  • You were living together as husband and 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 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.

What is My Filing Status If I Am Not Married?

There are three different filing statuses for unmarried people. Anyone who is not married may file as Single, but if you have a dependent and meet other qualifications, it could be to your advantage to file as Head of Household or as Qualifying Widow (or Widower). But make sure that you actually qualify before you claim any filing status.


Single is the most basic filing status. 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.

How to File as Single

Head of Household

You may qualify for Head of Household filing status if you were not married, you paid more than half the costs of keeping up a home, and you had a Qualifying Person.

How to File as Head of Household

Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child

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.

How to File as Qualifying Widow

What is My Filing Status If I Am Married?

If you were married, you generally have two choices of filing status: Married Filing Jointly and Married Filing Separately.

Other than being married, there are no special qualifications for either of these 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. It is a good idea to weigh the benefits of each married filing status before deciding on which one to use.

Married Filing Jointly

You may file as Married Filing Jointly if you were married on the last day of the Tax Year. You and your spouse must both agree to file a joint tax return. You may also choose this filing status if your spouse died during the year.

How to File as Married Filing Jointly

Married Filing Separately

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.

How to File as Married Filing Separately

Head of Household

Under very special circumstances, you might be able to file as Head of Household even if you are 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. 

How to File as Head of Household.

How Do I Prepare and File My Tax Return Once I Choose My Filing Status?

No matter what your filing status, 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!