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Filing Status

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Jeff Henderson
Determining Your IRS Filing Status

The filing status determines the rate at which income is taxed. There are five filing statuses:


Married filing jointly

Married filing separately

Head of household

Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child

A taxpayer may be able to claim more than one filing status. Usually, the taxpayer will choose the filing status that results in the lowest tax.

Single filing status

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.

Married Filing Jointly filing status

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.)

Married Filing Separately filing status

You must be married. This method may benefit you if you want to be responsible only for your own tax or if this method results in less tax than a joint return. If you and your spouse do not agree to file a joint return, you may have to use this filing status.

Head of Household filing status

You must meet the following requirements: 1. You are unmarried or considered unmarried on the last day of the year. 2. You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year. 3. A qualifying person lived with you in the home for more than half the year (except temporary absences, such as school). However, your dependent parent does not have to live with you.

Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child filing status

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. You may be eligible to use qualifying widow(er) with dependent child as your filing status for two years following the year of death of your spouse. For example, if your spouse died in 2012, and you have not remarried, you may be able to use this filing status for 2013 and 2014. This filing status entitles you to use joint return tax rates and the highest standard deduction amount (if you do not itemize deductions). This status does not entitle you to file a joint return.

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