Filing your return: Filing status
filing status you choose on your return could make the difference
between owing $2,000 to the U.S. government or the government giving
you $2,000 to pocket.
There are five official IRS filing statuses:
- Married, filing your return jointly
- Married, with each partner filing a tax return
- Head of household
- Qualifying widow/widower with dependent child
Single: You are unmarried, divorced or legally
separated, either according to your state law or under a separate
Married, filing jointly: You and your spouse
were married during the tax year and agree to file your taxes together.
You don't have to be married for all 365 days. Your marital status
on the last day of the year determines your status for the entire
year. For example, if your wedding was Dec. 28, you can file a joint
return for that tax year. Conversely, if your spouse died and you
did not remarry, you are considered married for the whole year for
Married, filing separately: You and your spouse
are married but opt to file separate tax returns. This may be the
way to file if you want to be responsible only for your own tax
or if you suspect your spouse may be using questionable tax-filing
tactics. This method also is allowable (and preferable) if it cuts
your tax bill. But be sure to figure your tax both as filing jointly
and separately to ensure you get the best tax benefit.
Head of household: You will want to use this
status if you are unmarried and have provided more than half the
cost of keeping up a home for yourself and a qualifying relative.
Tax rates for head-of-household filers are more favorable than those
in the single or married-filing-separately categories. In some cases,
married persons who have not lived with their spouses may qualify
for this status.
Qualifying widow or widower with dependent child:
As mentioned earlier, when a spouse dies, a taxpayer may file
a married joint return for the tax year that the husband or wife
died. After that, a widow or widower who supports a child and does
not remarry will probably want to use the qualifying widow (or widower)
status. It is allowed for the two years following the year a spouse
dies and applies the same rate as that afforded married joint filers.
This is generally more beneficial than the head-of-household rates.