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Figuring Your Tax Filing Status

Most of the time, picking a tax filing status is not up to you. But some times, you may be faced with choosing how to file, and in this case, knowing a little about each filing status can be very helpful.


This page:

  • Describes each filing status

  • Suggests the most beneficial filing status for certain situations

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The basics of your filing status

When you file your taxes, you will have to choose between five filing statuses, which are based upon you marital status and any dependent care you may provide.

Each status corresponds to a certain automatic deduction from your taxes. It is important to only use the filing status that best describes your situation, but, should you fall under two categories, you should pick the status with the bigger deduction.

The five different filing statuses are:

  • single,
  • married filing jointly,
  • married filing separately,
  • head of household, and
  • qualifying widow.

In recent years, the IRS has been focusing their attention on fraudulent filing statuses, which is against the law and, if caught, has severe consequences.


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Below we list a few profiles of the people who file under which statuses, just for your information.

Note: your marital status on the last day of the tax year is what the IRS considers you to be for that entire tax year.

Picking the best filing status

You should use the Single filing status if you are:

  • single without any dependents
  • widowed more than one year and without any dependents
  • widowed for more than two years


You should use the Head of Household filing status if you are:

  • single with a dependent residing in your permanent residence
  • widowed with a dependent residing in your permanent residence
  • married, not filing w/spouse, with a dependent residing with you.


You should use the Qualifying Widow(er) filing status if you are:

  • widowed in prior 2 tax years w/a dependent residing w/you.


You should use the Married Filing Jointly filing status if you are:

  • widowed in current tax year & eligible to file a joint return.
  • married filing with spouse.


You should use Married Filing Separately filing status if you are:

  • married not filing with spouse and have no dependents.
  • widowed this tax year, ineligible for joint return & no dependents.


Related IRS Publications

You can get more information about your filing status directly from the IRS, in the form of Publication 501. If you are divorced or separated you may also find Publication 504 useful.




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