Choosing the Right Filing Status
IRS Tax Tip 2014-13, February 13, 2014
Update Oct. 27, 2014: The IRS.gov link near the end of the Tip changed from "1040 Central" to "Filing Your Taxes"
Using the correct filing status is very important when you file your tax return. You need to use the right status because it affects how much you pay in taxes. It may even affect whether you must file a tax return.
When choosing a filing status, keep in mind that your marital status on Dec. 31 is your status for the whole year. If more than one filing status applies to you, choose the one that will result in the lowest tax.
Note for same-sex married couples. New rules apply to you if you were legally married in a state or foreign country that recognizes same-sex marriage. You and your spouse generally must use a married filing status on your 2013 federal tax return. This is true even if you and your spouse now live in a state or foreign country that does not recognize same-sex marriage. See irs.gov and the instructions for your tax return for more information.
Here is a list of the five filing statuses to help you choose:
- Single. This status normally applies if you aren’t married or are divorced or legally separated under state law.
- Married Filing Jointly. A married couple can file one tax return together. If your spouse died in 2013, you usually can still file a joint return for that year.
- Married Filing Separately. A married couple can choose to file two separate tax returns instead of one joint return. This status may be to your benefit if it results in less tax. You can also use it if you want to be responsible only for your own tax.
- Head of Household. This status normally applies if you are not married. You also must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for yourself and a qualifying person. Some people choose this status by mistake. Be sure to check all the rules before you file.
- Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child. If your spouse died during 2011 or 2012 and you have a dependent child, this status may apply. Certain other conditions also apply.
You can also find the rules on this topic in Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information. It’s available on IRS.gov or by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Additional IRS Resources:
- IRS Free File
- Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Same-Sex Married Couples
- IRS Tax Map
- Instructions for Forms 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ
IRS YouTube Videos: