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How do I know which filing status to choose?

Your marital status, as of December 31 in the tax year you’re filing for, will determine what filing status you should use on your tax return. Here are the five different filing statuses the IRS recognizes:

  1. Single - Generally, this status applies if you’re not married, or you’re divorced or legally separated from the marriage according to your state law.
  2. Married Filing Jointly - If you’re married, you and your spouse may file a joint return. If your spouse passed away 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.
  3. Married Filing Separately - If you’re married and decide to file separate returns.
  4. Head of Household - You can select this filing status if all of the following situations apply to you:
    • You’re not married or you’re considered unmarried on the last day of the tax filing year.
    • You have at least one qualifying dependent.
    • You paid more than half the cost in living expenses for yourself and the qualifying dependent.
    • You’ve lived with the qualifying dependent for more than half the tax year (with the exception of temporary absences, such as school, and a dependent parent).
  5. Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child - You can select this filing status if all of the following situations apply to you:
    • Your spouse passed away within the last two tax years.
    • You didn’t remarry before the end of the tax year.
    • You have a qualifying child where you’ve provided more than half the cost of their living expenses.
    • You’ve lived with the qualifying child for the entire year (with the exception of temporary absences).

If more than one status applies to you, the IRS states that you should choose the status with the lowest tax liability. Also, you should have a conversation with everyone who might be affected by your filing status, including your spouse, dependents or relatives who lived in your household, and you’ve provided financial support for more than half the tax year for them. The IRS can reject your tax return if it conflicts with the status of another tax return that has been previously accepted.

If you’re still unsure which filing status is the most beneficial to you, you can use the IRS Interactive Tax Assistant: What Is My Filing Status? to help determine your filing status.
Source: irs.gov

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