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Understanding The Different IRS Filing Statuses

Understand Different IRS Filing Statuses. The five different filing statuses recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are:

Filing Single:

Your filing status is single if you are either unmarried or legally separated on the last day of the tax year being filed. If you were legally single on or before December 31st, you will need to file as single individual on your tax return.

Married Filing Jointly:

To be considered married by the IRS, a man and woman must have their marriage legally recognized by the US federal government. You can choose to file jointly if you and your spouse agree to file a joint return. This will include combining all income, exemptions, and deductions on your joint income tax return. Note: both spouses are liable for for each others figures represented on your tax return, so be sure you trust your spouses figures.

Married Filing Separately:

You can also chose the filing status of Married Filing Separately (MFS). Keep in mind that this status generally has the highest tax liability. Couples can often save a lot more money on their taxes by choosing to file a joint return. The Married Filing Separately filing status provides fewer tax benefits than filing joint returns. That's because MFS taxpayers are not eligible to claim the following tax benefits:

Head of Household:

Qualifying as Head of Household (HOH) will likely give you a lower tax liability then filing as Single. Married taxpayers may be eligible to file using the Head of Household filing status if your spouse did not live with you during the last six months of the tax year, and your home was the main home of your child for more than half the year.

You can claim the Head of Household  filing status on your tax return if you are unmarried, have cared for a dependent for over half the year, and paid more than half the cost of maintaining a home. Taxpayers claiming the Head of Household filing status can benefit from a higher tax deductions, and lower tax rates than single taxpayers.

Requirements of HOH filing status qualifications:

  1. You were unmarried or "considered unmarried" legally separated on the last day of the tax year being filed.
  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 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.

Qualifying Widow(er):

To qualify for this filing status you must have a qualifying dependent child for two years following the year your spouse died. Surviving spouses receive the same standard deduction and tax rates as taxpayers who are married filing jointly.

In the year of your spouse's death, you can file a joint return. For the two following years, you can use the Qualifying Widow/Widower with Dependent Child filing status. After two years, your filing status would be Single or Head of Household.

Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child: You are eligible to file your return as a qualifying widow(er) with dependent child if you meet all the following tests."