I received an email asking me what filing status should the person file under and I had to explain that without knowing all the background information I can’t make a good determination. I am starting up teaching basic tax preparation again so I thought I would share some of my information with you, gentle profit oriented readers.
The IRS (google them, you will find them, trust me), has more detail than you probably are interested in on the subject but let me try and bring the key points home here:
There are five filing statuses:
Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household, and Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child.
If more than one filing status applies to you, choose the one that will give you the lowest tax.
In general, your filing status depends on whether you are considered unmarried or married. For federal tax purposes, a marriage means only a legal union between a man and a woman as husband and wife.
Unmarried persons. You are considered unmarried for the whole year if, on the last day of your tax year, you are unmarried or legally separated from your spouse under a divorce or separate maintenance decree.
State law governs whether you are married or legally separated under a divorce or separate maintenance decree.
Divorced persons. If you are divorced under a final decree by the last day of the year, you are considered unmarried for the whole year.
Divorce and remarriage. If you obtain a divorce in one year for the sole purpose of filing tax returns as unmarried individuals, and at the time of divorce you intended to and did remarry each other in the next tax year, you and your spouse must file as married individuals.
Annulled marriages. If you obtain a court decree of annulment, which holds that no valid marriage ever existed, you are considered unmarried even if you filed joint returns for earlier years. You must file amended returns (Form 1040X) claiming single or head of household status for all tax years affected by the annulment that are not closed by the statute of limitations for filing a tax return. The statute of limitations generally does not expire until 3 years after your original return was filed.
Head of household or qualifying widow(er) with dependent child. If you are considered unmarried, you may be able to file as a head of household or as a qualifying widow(er) with a dependent child. See Head of Household and Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child to see if you qualify.
Married persons. If you are considered married for the whole year, you and your spouse can file a joint return, or you can file separate returns.
Considered married. You are considered married for the whole year if on the last day of your tax year you and your spouse meet any one of the following tests.
You are married and living together as husband and wife.
You are living together in a common law marriage that is 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. For purposes of filing a joint return, you are not considered divorced.
Spouse died during the year. If your spouse died during the year, you are considered married for the whole year for filing status purposes.
If you did not remarry before the end of the tax year, you can file a joint return for yourself and your deceased spouse. For the next 2 years, you may be entitled to the special benefits described later under Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child.
If you remarried before the end of the tax year, you can file a joint return with your new spouse. Your deceased spouse’s filing status is married filing separately for that year.
Married persons living apart. If you live apart from your spouse and meet certain tests, you may be considered unmarried. If this applies to you, you can file as head of household even though you are not divorced or legally separated. If you qualify to file as head of household instead of as married filing separately, your standard deduction will be higher. Also, your tax may be lower, and you may be able to claim the earned income credit. See Head of Household, later.
Your filing status is single if, on the last day of the year, you are unmarried or legally separated from your spouse under a divorce or separate maintenance decree, and you do not qualify for another filing status. To determine your marital status on the last day of the year, see Marital Status, earlier.
Widow(er). Your filing status may be single if you were widowed before January 1, 2007, and did not remarry before the end of 2007. However, you might be able to use another filing status that will give you a lower tax. See Head of Household and Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child, later, to see if you qualify.
How to file. You can file Form 1040EZ (if you have no dependents, are under 65 and not blind, and meet other requirements), Form 1040A, or Form 1040. If you file Form 1040A or Form 1040, show your filing status as single by checking the box on line 1. Use the Single column of the Tax Table, or Section A of the Tax Computation Worksheet, to figure your tax.
Married Filing Jointly
You can choose married filing jointly as your filing status if you are married and both you and your spouse agree to file a joint return. On a joint return, you 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.
For more information, you can check with the IRS and you may be interested in checking out my book,
“Bad Tax Idea, Good Tax Idea” for some tips that accountants and tax professionals might not give you. You can find that book on Amazon (you can google to find that too). All information posted here is for you to review and for more serious study and tax prepatation, kindly due your own research or consult your tax pro!
Good luck with your thoughts on Filing Statuses for Taxes!
You are in Kim Greenblatt’s blog, profitable, trying to figure out what filing status means for tax preparation!