Determining Filing Status

Filing Status

The tax rates that will apply and the amount of standard deduction available to an individual taxpayer is based on the filing status. 

StatusCriteria
Single

Taxpayer (You) can check “Single” on the tax return if any of the following was true at the end of the taxation year.

  • You were never married.
  • You were legally separated.
  • You were widowed before current taxation year.
Married Filing Jointly 

Taxpayer (You) can check “Married Filing Jointly” on the tax return if any of the following was true at the end of the taxation year.

  • You were married at the end of the taxation year.
  • You became a widow(er) during the current taxation year.
  • Both spouses are citizens/greencard holders/resident aliens. There is an exception to this rule as discussed in next status.

A married couple will jointly report their combined income and combined expenses on the tax return.

They can file a joint return even if only one had income or if they didn’t live together all year.

Once taxpayer file a joint return, they can’t choose to file separate returns for that year after the due date of the return.

Both spouses must sign the return.

Both spouses are responsible for tax and interest or penalties on the return. 

Starting with 2013 tax year the IRS recognizes same -sex marriages.

Married Filing Jointly – One spouse is a non-resident

Generally, a taxpayer cannot file a married filing joint return if either spouse is a non-resident alien at anytime during the year. However,  a non-resident/dual status spouse can elect to be treated as a resident alien and file a joint return.

If both spouses are non-resident aliens, then they are not allowed to file a joint return. 

Married Filing Separately

Taxpayer (You) can check “Married Filing Separately” on the tax return if any of the following was true at the end of the taxation year.

  • You were married and you don’t want to file a joint tax return. (Generally, it is always better to file a joint tax return)
  • You and your spouse are both non-resident aliens. 
  • Your spouse is a non-resident alien and does not elect to be considered a resident alien and file a joint tax return. 

You will pay more tax than if you use another filing status for which you qualify. Also, if you file a separate return, you can’t take the education credits, the student loan interest deduction, or the earned income credit. You also can’t take the standard deduction if your spouse itemizes deductions

Head of Household

Taxpayer (You) can check “Head of Household” on the tax return if any of the following was true at the end of the taxation year.

You have lived with a qualified dependent and meet one of the conditions below:

  • You were legally separated at the end of taxation year.
  • You are married to a nonresident alien at any time during the year and you don’t choose to treat him or her as a resident alien to file a joint tax return.
  • You were considered married person who live apart.

Generally, a qualified dependent for whom you pay more than 50% of the household costs and includes a dependent child or relative who lives with you, or for a dependent parent even if he or she doesn’t live with you.

 Qualifying Widow(er)

 Taxpayer (You) can check “Head of Household” on the tax return if all of the following was true at the end of the taxation year.

  • Your spouse died in one of the previous two taxation years and you didn’t remarry before the end of the current taxation year.

  • You have a child or stepchild who you can claim as a dependent except if the child had gross income of more than $4,150 (2018 limit), filed a joint return, or you could be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return.

  • This child lived in your home for all the taxation year.

  • You paid more than 50% of household cost.

  • You could have filed a joint return with your spouse the year he or she died.

 

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