You martial status as of December 31 of the tax year you’re filing for will help determine what filing status you should use on your tax return. Here are the five different filing statuses the IRS recognizes:
- Single - Generally, if you are unmarried, divorced or legally separated according to your state law, your filing status is Single.
- Married Filing Jointly - If you are married, you and your spouse may file a joint return. If your spouse died during the year and you didn’t remarry, you may still file a joint return with that spouse for the year he or she died.
- Married Filing Separately - If you’re married and decide to file separate returns.
- Head of Household - You are not married or you are considered unmarried on the last day of the tax filing year. Also, you must have paid more than half the cost of maintaining a home for yourself and a qualifying person who lived with you in the home for more than half of the year (except for temporary absences, such as school). Though, if the qualifying person is your dependent parent, he or she doesn’t have to live with you.
- Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child - You may choose this filing status if your spouse died within the last two tax years, you did not remarry before the third year, and you have a qualifying child for whom you provided more than half of the cost of maintaining a home. See Form 1040 instructions for more information about this filing status.
If more than one status applies to you, the IRS states that you should choose the status that creates the least tax liability for you. Keep in mind that it’s always a good idea to have a conversation with everyone who might be affected by your filing status, such as your spouse, dependent or a relative who lived in your household for more than half the tax year and for whom you provided financial support. The IRS can reject your tax return if it conflicts with the status of another tax return that has been previously accepted.