Table of Contents
- Useful Items - You may want to see:
- Marital Status
- Married Filing Jointly
- Married Filing Separately
- Head of Household
- Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child
This chapter helps you determine which filing status to use. There are five filing statuses.
Married Filing Jointly.
Married Filing Separately.
Head of Household.
Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child.
You must determine your filing status before you can determine whether you must file a tax return (chapter 1), your standard deduction (chapter 20), and your tax (chapter 30). You also use your filing status to determine whether you are eligible to claim certain deductions and credits.
501 Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information
519 U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens
555 Community Property
In general, your filing status depends on whether you are considered unmarried or married.
You are married and living together.
You are living together in a common law marriage recognized in the state where you now live or in the state where the common law marriage began.
You are married and living apart, but not legally separated under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance.
You are separated under an interlocutory (not final) decree of divorce.
Your filing status is single if you are considered unmarried and you do not qualify for another filing status. To determine your marital status, see Marital Status , earlier.
You can choose married filing jointly as your filing status if you are considered married and both you and your spouse agree to file a joint return. On a joint return, you and your spouse report your combined income and deduct your combined allowable expenses. You can file a joint return even if one of you had no income or deductions.
If you and your spouse decide to file a joint return, your tax may be lower than your combined tax for the other filing statuses. Also, your standard deduction (if you do not itemize deductions) may be higher, and you may qualify for tax benefits that do not apply to other filing statuses.
Both you and your spouse must include all of your income, exemptions, and deductions on your joint return.
You may want to file separately if:
You believe your spouse is not reporting all of his or her income, or
You do not want to be responsible for any taxes due if your spouse does not have enough tax withheld or does not pay enough estimated tax.
Innocent spouse relief.
Separation of liability (available only to joint filers who are divorced, widowed, legally separated, or have not lived together for the 12 months ending on the date the election for this relief is filed).
You can choose married filing separately as your filing status if you are married. This filing status may benefit you if you want to be responsible only for your own tax or if it results in less tax than filing a joint return.
If you and your spouse do not agree to file a joint return, you must use this filing status unless you qualify for head of household status, discussed later.
You may be able to choose head of household filing status if you are considered unmarried because you live apart from your spouse and meet certain tests (explained later, under Head of Household ). This can apply to you even if you are not divorced or legally separated. If you qualify to file as head of household, instead of as married filing separately, your tax may be lower, you may be able to claim the earned income credit and certain other credits, and your standard deduction will be higher. The head of household filing status allows you to choose the standard deduction even if your spouse chooses to itemize deductions. See Head of Household , later, for more information.
You can file Form 1040. If your taxable income is less than $100,000, you may be able to file Form 1040A. Select this filing status by checking the box on line 3 of either form. Enter your spouse's full name and SSN or ITIN in the spaces provided. If your spouse does not have and is not required to have an SSN or ITIN, enter “NRA” in the space for your spouse's SSN. Use the Married filing separately column of the Tax Table or Section C of the Tax Computation Worksheet to figure your tax.
If you choose married filing separately as your filing status, the following special rules apply. Because of these special rules, you usually pay more tax on a separate return than if you use another filing status you qualify for.
Your tax rate generally is higher than on a joint return.
Your exemption amount for figuring the alternative minimum tax is half that allowed on a joint return.
You cannot take the credit for child and dependent care expenses in most cases, and the amount you can exclude from income under an employer's dependent care assistance program is limited to $2,500 (instead of $5,000). However, if you are legally separated or living apart from your spouse, you may be able to file a separate return and still take the credit. For more information about these expenses, the credit, and the exclusion, see chapter 32.
You cannot take the earned income credit.
You cannot take the exclusion or credit for adoption expenses in most cases.
You cannot take the education credits (the American opportunity credit and lifetime learning credit) or the deduction for student loan interest.
You cannot exclude any interest income from qualified U.S. savings bonds you used for higher education expenses.
If you lived with your spouse at any time during the tax year:
You cannot claim the credit for the elderly or the disabled, and
You must include in income a greater percentage (up to 85%) of any social security or equivalent railroad retirement benefits you received.
The following credits and deductions are reduced at income levels half those for a joint return:
The child tax credit,
The retirement savings contributions credit,
The deduction for personal exemptions, and
If your spouse itemizes deductions, you cannot claim the standard deduction. If you can claim the standard deduction, your basic standard deduction is half the amount allowed on a joint return.
You generally can change to a joint return any time within 3 years from the due date of the separate return or returns. This does not include any extensions. A separate return includes a return filed by you or your spouse claiming married filing separately, single, or head of household filing status.
Once you file a joint return, you cannot choose to file separate returns for that year after the due date of the return.
You may be able to file as head of household if you meet all the following requirements.
You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year.
A qualifying person lived with you in the home for more than half the year (except for temporary absences, such as school). However, if the qualifying person is your dependent parent, he or she does not have to live with you. See Special rule for parent , later, under Qualifying Person.
To qualify for head of household status, you must be either unmarried or considered unmarried on the last day of the year. You are considered unmarried on the last day of the tax year if you meet all the following tests.
You file a separate return. A separate return includes a return claiming married filing separately, single, or head of household filing status.
You paid more than half the cost of keeping up your home for the tax year.
Your spouse did not live in your home during the last 6 months of the tax year. Your spouse is considered to live in your home even if he or she is temporarily absent due to special circumstances. See Temporary absences , under Qualifying Person, later.
Your home was the main home of your child, stepchild, or foster child for more than half the year. (See Home of qualifying person , under Qualifying Person, later, for rules applying to a child's birth, death, or temporary absence during the year.)
You must be able to claim an exemption for the child. However, you meet this test if you cannot claim the exemption only because the noncustodial parent can claim the child using the rules described in Children of divorced or separated parents (or parents who live apart) under Qualifying Child in chapter 3, or referred to in Support Test for Children of Divorced or Separated Parents (or Parents Who Live Apart) under Qualifying Relative in chapter 3. The general rules for claiming an exemption for a dependent are explained under Exemptions for Dependents in chapter 3.
To qualify for head of household status, you must pay more than half of the cost of keeping up a home for the year. You can determine whether you paid more than half of the cost of keeping up a home by using Worksheet 2–1.
|Mortgage interest expense|
|Food eaten in the home|
|Other household expenses|
|Minus total amount you paid||()|
|Amount others paid||$|
|If the total amount you paid is more than the amount others paid, you meet the requirement of paying more than half the cost of keeping up the home.|
Caution.See the text of this chapter for the other requirements you must meet to claim head of household filing status.
|IF the person is your . . .||AND . . .||THEN that person is . . .|
|qualifying child (such as a son, daughter, or grandchild who lived with you more than half the year and meets certain other tests)2||he or she is single||a qualifying person, whether or not you can claim an exemption for the person.|
|he or she is married and you can claim an exemption for him or her||a qualifying person.|
|he or she is married and you cannot claim an exemption for him or her||not a qualifying person.3|
|qualifying relative4 who is your father or mother||you can claim an exemption for him or her5||a qualifying person.6|
|you cannot claim an exemption for him or her||not a qualifying person.|
|qualifying relative4 other than your father or mother (such as a grandparent, brother, or sister who meets certain tests)||he or she lived with you more than half the year, and he or she is related to you in one of the ways listed under Relatives who do not have to live with you in chapter 3 and you can claim an exemption for him or her5||a qualifying person.|
|he or she did not live with you more than half the year||not a qualifying person.|
|he or she is not related to you in one of the ways listed under Relatives who do not have to live with you in chapter 3 and is your qualifying relative only because he or she lived with you all year as a member of your household||not a qualifying person.|
|you cannot claim an exemption for him or her||not a qualifying person.|
|1A person cannot qualify more than one taxpayer to use the head of household filing status for the year.|
|2The term “qualifying child” is defined in chapter 3. Note. If you are a noncustodial parent, the term “qualifying child” for head of household filing status does not include a child who is your qualifying child for exemption purposes only because of the rules described under Children of divorced or separated parents (or parents who live apart) under Qualifying Child in chapter 3. If you are the custodial parent and those rules apply, the child generally is your qualifying child for head of household filing status even though the child is not a qualifying child for whom you can claim an exemption.|
|3This person is a qualifying person if the only reason you cannot claim the exemption is that you can be claimed as a dependent on someone else's return.|
|4The term “ qualifying relative ” is defined in chapter 3.|
|5If you can claim an exemption for a person only because of a multiple support agreement, that person is not a qualifying person. See Multiple Support Agreement in chapter 3.|
|6See Special rule for parent .|
Your unmarried son lived with you all year and was 18 years old at the end of the year. He did not provide more than half of his own support and does not meet the tests to be a qualifying child of anyone else. As a result, he is your qualifying child (see Qualifying Child in chapter 3) and, because he is single, your qualifying person for you to claim head of household filing status.
Example 2—child who is not qualifying person.
The facts are the same as in Example 1 except your son was 25 years old at the end of the year and his gross income was $5,000. Because he does not meet the age test (explained under Qualifying Child in chapter 3), your son is not your qualifying child. Because he does not meet the gross income test (explained later under Qualifying Relative in chapter 3), he is not your qualifying relative. As a result, he is not your qualifying person for head of household purposes.
Your girlfriend lived with you all year. Even though she may be your qualifying relative if the gross income and support tests (explained in chapter 3) are met, she is not your qualifying person for head of household purposes because she is not related to you in one of the ways listed under Relatives who do not have to live with you in chapter 3. See Table 2-1.
Example 4—girlfriend's child.
The facts are the same as in Example 3 except your girlfriend's 10-year-old son also lived with you all year. He is not your qualifying child and, because he is your girlfriend's qualifying child, he is not your qualifying relative (see Not a Qualifying Child Test in chapter 3). As a result, he is not your qualifying person for head of household purposes.
If your spouse died in 2014, you can use married filing jointly as your filing status for 2014 if you otherwise qualify to use that status. The year of death is the last year for which you can file jointly with your deceased spouse. See Married Filing Jointly , earlier.
You may be eligible to use qualifying widow(er) with dependent child as your filing status for 2 years following the year your spouse died. For example, if your spouse died in 2013, and you have not remarried, you may be able to use this filing status for 2014 and 2015.
This filing status entitles you to use joint return tax rates and the highest standard deduction amount (if you do not itemize deductions). It does not entitle you to file a joint return.
You were entitled to file a joint return with your spouse for the year your spouse died. It does not matter whether you actually filed a joint return.
Your spouse died in 2012 or 2013 and you did not remarry before the end of 2014.
You have a child or stepchild for whom you can claim an exemption. This does not include a foster child.
This child lived in your home all year, except for temporary absences. See Temporary absences , earlier, under Head of Household. There are also exceptions, described later, for a child who was born or died during the year and for a kidnapped child.
You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year. See Keeping Up a Home , earlier, under Head of Household.
John's wife died in 2012. John has not remarried. During 2013 and 2014, he continued to keep up a home for himself and his child, who lives with him and for whom he can claim an exemption. For 2012 he was entitled to file a joint return for himself and his deceased wife. For 2013 and 2014, he can file as qualifying widower with a dependent child. After 2014 he can file as head of household if he qualifies.
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