Filing Status

The filing status you select while preparing your income tax return is one of the most vital pieces of information that you give. It factors heavily into the following items:

Whether or not you need to file a return: To determine whether you need to file a return you must first know for certain what your filing status is. There are income levels that change each year that show whether you need to file a tax return or not. Those limits vary based on your filing status.

Your standard deduction: The first item affected by filing status is the amount of your standard deduction. The standard deduction is an amount of money that you are allowed to subtract from your adjusted gross income. The less income you have, the less you owe the IRS in taxes. Taxpayers that are married filing jointly or a qualifying widow(er) enjoy the biggest standard deduction. The second largest deduction goes to someone filing head of household. The smallest deduction is given to those who file single or married filing separately. Standard deduction is not a factor for those who itemize their deductions.

Amount of taxes you owe: As mentioned above, after you determine the amount of income you have for the year, you are allowed to subtract either a standard or itemized deduction from that amount. You then look up the resulting value in one of the IRS's tax tables to find the amount in taxes you are responsible for in that year. This table is categorized by filing status. Like the standard deduction, the tax table favors those who are married filing jointly or filing as a qualifying widow(er) by giving lower tax amounts owed than those who file single, head of household, or married filing separately.

These are the five filing status available to you for filing your federal tax return:

  • Single - to qualify as single you must be legally separated or unmarried
  • Married Filing Jointly - you must be married for you and your spouse to file a joint return. If your spouse passed away during the previous year you can still file a married filing jointly return provided that you did not remarry in the same year
  • Married Filing Separately - you may also elect to file separate returns when you are married
  • Head of Household - you must not be married and you must have covered more than half of household cost for you and a qualifying dependent
  • Qualifying Widow(er) - if your spouse died within the last two years, and you have a qualifying dependent child, you may be able to file as this status