Which Filing Status Should I Use?
Your filing status determines how much your standard deduction will be and can influence the amount, if any, of Earned Income Credit you can claim and it is a factor in determining if you are required to file a return.
There are five filing statuses on the IRS form 1040. They are listed below with the general standard deduction for each status:
- Single $5,700
- Married Filing Joint $11,400
- Married Filing Separately ???
- Head of Household $8,400
- Qualifying Widow(er) $11,400
If a couple uses the Married Filing Separate filing status then both must use the standard deduction for a single person or both must use itemized deductions. One cannot take the standard deduction and the other itemize. In addition there are other factors that can influence the standard deduction amounts. For more information see IRS Publication 501:
“Here are eight facts about the five filing status options the IRS wants you to know so that you can choose the best option for your situation.
- Your marital status on the last day of the year determines your marital status for the entire year.
- If more than one filing status applies to you, choose the one that gives you the lowest tax obligation.
- Single filing status generally applies to anyone who is unmarried, divorced or legally separated according to state law.
- A married couple may file a joint return together. The couple’s filing status would be Married Filing Jointly.
- If your spouse died during the year and you did not remarry during 2010, usually you may still file a joint return with that spouse for the year of death.
- A married couple may elect to file their returns separately. Each person’s filing status would generally be Married Filing Separately.
- Head of Household generally applies to taxpayers who are unmarried. You must also have paid more than half the cost of maintaining a home for you and a qualifying person to qualify for this filing status.
- You may be able to choose Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child as your filing status if your spouse died during 2008 or 2009, you have a dependent child and you meet certain other conditions.”
To file using the Head of Household filing status here are a couple of other qualifications from the IRS Publication 501:
“Head of Household
- You are unmarried or “considered unmarried” on the last day of the year.
- You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year.
- 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. See Special rule for parent , later, under Qualifying Person.
To qualify for head of household status, you must be either unmarried or considered unmarried on the last day of the year. You are considered unmarried on the last day of the tax year if you meet all the following tests.
- You file a separate return (defined earlier under Joint Return After Separate Returns ).
- You paid more than half the cost of keeping up your home for the tax year.
- Your spouse did not live in your home during the last 6 months of the tax year. Your spouse is considered to live in your home even if he or she is temporarily absent due to special circumstances. See Temporary absences , later.
- Your home was the main home of your child, stepchild, or foster child for more than half the year. (See Home of qualifying person , later, for rules applying to a child’s birth, death, or temporary absence during the year.)
- You must be able to claim an exemption for the child. However, you meet this test if you cannot claim the exemption only because the noncustodial parent can claim the child using the rules described later in Children of divorced or separated parents or parents who live apart under Qualifying Child or in Support Test for Children of Divorced or Separated Parents or Parents Who Live Apart under Qualifying Relative. The general rules for claiming an exemption for a dependent are explained later under Exemptions for Dependents .”
As is always the case with Tax Law and the IRS there are plenty of exceptions and everything is always subject to change. This was meant to be an overview and probably went into too much detail but not all details. For more information about filing statuses, visit http://www.irs.gov.
For assistance from a CPA to determine the filing status you should use and to prepare your tax returns give call me or email me today at:
Jeff Haywood, CPA
I prepare the following types of tax returns:
Federal and State Returns
Also, I am available for tax planning and discussions about business, retirement planning and life goals.
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As always keep in mind that the content provide on this site is general in nature and may or may not apply to your particular case. It is best to check with a tax professional about your circumstances and what is best for you personally. Also, IRS regulations and tax laws are constantly changing and the information on this site is not constantly updated. Again please check with me about your particular circumstances and what will be best in your situation at the given time and law.
This article was written by Jeff Haywood, CPA.
Jeff is a licensed CPA in both Texas and Illinois.
He has prepared income tax returns for the public for over 10 years.
He also has an MBA in Finance from Loyola University in Chicago and he has 24 years experience in Corporate Finance and Business Analysis.