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Choosing the Right Filing Status (Part II)

Your personal circumstances will determine your tax return filing status. Depending on your situation, you may not even need to file a tax return at all. On the other hand, if you do need to file and you qualify for more than one filing status, you can calculate your taxes using both and choose the one that works best.

filing status for taxes

Marital status is the most important criteria when deciding your filing status. Your marital status on Dec 31st is considered your marital status for the entire tax year.

The five tax-filing options, depending on your circumstances, are:

1. Single

If you are unmarried on the last day of the year, are divorced or are legally separated, then you can use the filing-status of Single. If an unmarried taxpayer supports a child or a dependent, then they can use the head of household status.

2. Married Filing Jointly

A married couple can file one joint tax return. Filing a return jointly typically provides more tax benefits than married filing separately. In a joint tax return, the income, tax credits and tax deductions of both the spouses are combined on one return.

3. Married Filing Separately

A married couple has the choice of whether to file jointly or separately. Usually, the method which results in fewer taxes being owed is the one selected. In some cases, a spouse may choose Married Filing Separately because they only want to be responsible for their own tax.

4. Head of Household

Generally, those who are not married can use Head of Household. To qualify, you must be paying more than half of the cost of maintaining a home for yourself and a qualifying person. You should review all of the requirements before you file to prevent errors.

5. Qualifying Window(er) with Dependent Child

For the year in which your spouse died, you can file as Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately. After that, you still have these filing options if you have at least one child as a dependent and remain unmarried.

You can only use these filing options for two years. Your filing status changes to single or head of household after that if you are still unmarried.

If you’re not sure which filing status to choose, IRS e-file is designed to help you make your determination. You can also use IRS Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information to correctly determine your filing status.