It’s important to use the correct filing status when filing your income tax return. It can impact the tax benefits you receive, the amount of your standard deduction and the amount of taxes you pay. It may even impact whether you must file a federal income tax return.
Are you single, married or the head of your household? There are five filing statuses on a federal tax return. The most common are “Single,” “Married Filing Jointly” and “Head of Household.” The Head of Household status may be the one most often claimed in error.
The IRS offers these seven facts to help you choose the best filing status for you.
1. Marital Status. Your marital status on the last day of the year is your marital status for the entire year.
2. If You Have a Choice. If more than one filing status fits you, choose the one that allows you to pay the lowest taxes.
3. Single Filing Status. Single filing status generally applies if you are not married, divorced or legally separated according to state law.
4. Married Filing Jointly. A married couple may file a return together using the Married Filing Jointly status. If your spouse died during 2012, you usually may still file a joint return for that year.
5. Married Filing Separately. If a married couple decides to file their returns separately, each person’s filing status would generally be Married Filing Separately.
6. Head of Household. The Head of Household status generally applies if you are not married and have paid more than half the cost of maintaining a home for yourself and a qualifying person.
7. Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child. This status may apply if your spouse died during 2010 or 2011, you have a dependent child and you meet certain other conditions.
IRS e-file is the easiest way to file and will help you determine the correct filing status. If you file a paper return, the Interactive Tax Assistant at IRS.gov is a tool that will help you choose your filing status.
You can also find more helpful information in IRS Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information. This publication is available at IRS.gov or by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).