Figuring out Your Correct Filing Status

Your filing status determines which tax forms you need to file, the amount of your standard deduction, eligibility for certain tax credits, and how much tax you owe. In some cases, it may even impact whether you need to file a federal income tax return.

Single, married, divorced? Kids or no kids? These are just a few of the questions that help you figure out your correct filing status when filing your income tax return. While the most common filing statuses are “Single,” “Married Filing Jointly,” and “Head of Household,” there are five different filing status options listed on a federal tax return. Here are the five:

1. Single. Single filing status generally applies if you are not married, divorced or legally separated according to state law.

2. Married Filing Jointly. A married couple may file a return together using the Married Filing Jointly status. If your spouse died during 2019, you usually may still file a joint return for that year.

3. Married Filing Separately. If a married couple decides to file their returns separately, each person’s filing status would generally be Married Filing Separately.

4. Head of Household. The Head of Household status generally applies if you are not married and have paid more than half the cost of maintaining a home for yourself and a qualifying person.

5. Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child. This status may apply if your spouse died during 2017 or 2018 and you didn’t remarry before the end of 2019, you have a dependent child and you meet certain other conditions.

Sometimes more than one filing status applies, so it is important to work with a tax professional that can help you figure out which filing status is more beneficial, resulting in the lowest amount of tax owed. Something else to keep in mind is that your marital status on the last day of the year is your marital status for the entire year, so if your divorce is not final on December 31, you are still considered “married” for the 2019 tax year.


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