Advice on How to Choose One’s Filing Status

Tax rates and the standard deduction amount that someone can take, are both based primarily upon the tax filing status that he/she chooses. Someone’s filing status depends upon his/her marital status on the last day of the tax year, as well as whether or not he/she has a qualifying dependent (for Head of Household status).

Married, Filing Jointly or Married, Filing Separately

Even if someone was unmarried for the majority of the tax year, if he/she became married on or before December 31, he/she is considered married for tax purposes. In certain special situations, married persons who live separately from their spouses and have a qualifying dependent may be able to claim Head of Household status.

Married couples may file one tax return together (Married, Filing Jointly), or may each file their own (Married, Filing Separately). If someone files jointly, both his/her income and his/her spouse’s income – and both of his/her deductions – are combined.

“In most cases, MFJ status will save you more money on your return than filing separately.” said spokesperson Michele Tyson. “If you are separated or in the process of a divorce, or need to keep your finances (and tax liabilities) separate for legal reasons, you may want to consider MFS status instead.”

Single and Head of Household

If someone was legally not married on the last day of the tax year, his/her status is usually Single. If someone is single, but claiming a dependent, he/she may use Head of Household status, which is usually beneficial. Head of Household status allows a higher standard deduction and lower tax rates than Single status.

Qualifying Widow/Widower

If someone is unmarried on the last day of the year due to the death of his/her spouse earlier in the tax year, he/she may file Married, Filing Jointly or Married, Filing Separately. If someone is unmarried due to the death of his/her spouse within the two years before this tax year, he/she may file as a Qualifying Widow or Widower, allowing him/her to use the same standard deduction and tax rates he/she would if he/she was still married and filing jointly.

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