Knowing your best IRS filing status is essential for making sure you get the maximum refund you deserve, along with all the credits and deductions to which you are entitled.
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The IRS has five filing status options for taxpayers and they are based on whether the taxpayer is married by the end of the year:
You can file as Single if you don’t qualify for any other filing status and are not legally married. If you are divorced or legally separated, you may file as Single.
Married Filing Jointly
A married couple can file a tax return together by choosing the Married Filing Jointly status. If your spouse passed away during the year for which you are filing your tax return, you may still file as Married Filing Jointly. You don’t have to live with your spouse to file a joint return.
Married Filing Separately
Married couples have the option of filing their returns separately, meaning each person would claim their own income and deductions on their return. Filing separate returns means only the individual on the tax return is liable to the IRS for any tax bills and errors on the return. However, this filing status has the highest taxes, least allowed credits and deductions and can make more of the income taxable in many circumstances such as Social Security benefits and reduce your standard deduction amount to zero if the other spouse is itemizing deductions.
Head of Household
Taxpayers can file as Head of Household if they are not married and have paid more than half the cost of maintaining a household for themselves and a qualifying dependent. Certain taxpayers who are married but lived apart from their spouse for at least the last six months of the year and who had a dependent child living with them for more than half the year (as well as paying more than half the cost of maintaining a household), may also qualify as Head of Household.
Qualifying Widow(er) is now Qualifying Surviving Spouse
If your spouse passed away in the two years before this tax year, you may file as a Qualifying Surviving Spouse. This filing status allows you to use the Married Filing Jointly standard deduction and tax rates.
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