Generally, a taxpayer’s marital status on the last day of the year determines their filing status for the year.
Single: A taxpayer’s filing status is single if, on the last day of the year, they were unmarried or legally separated from their spouse under a divorce or separate maintenance decree, and they do not qualify for another filing status.
Widow(er): If a taxpayer’s spouse died in the current tax year, they can use married filing jointly as their filing status for the current tax year only, if they otherwise qualify to use that status. The year of death is the last year for which a taxpayer can file jointly with their deceased spouse.
They may be eligible to use qualifying widow(er) with dependent child as their filing status for 2 years following the year their spouse died. This filing status entitles a taxpayer to use joint return tax rates and the highest standard deduction amount (if they do not itemize deductions). This status does not entitle the taxpayer to file a joint return.
Married Filing Joint: Taxpayers can choose married filing jointly as their filing status if they are married and both the taxpayer and the spouse agree to file a joint return. When taxpayers choose to file a joint tax return, they will report combined income and deductions for the taxpayer and the spouse, even if one of them had no income or deductions for the year. Taxpayers may have a lower income tax rate as well as a higher standard deduction compared to other filing statuses. They may also qualify for certain tax credits and benefits that other statuses do not qualify for.
Married Filing Separately: Taxpayers who use married filing separately are married individuals who decide not to file a joint tax return, or who are separated and do not qualify to use head of household status.
Head of Household: A taxpayer may be able to file as head of household if they meet all the following requirements:
- They were unmarried or ‘considered unmarried’ on the last day of the year.
- They paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year.
- A ‘qualifying person’ lived with the taxpayer in the home for more than half the year (except for temporary absences, such as school). However, if the ‘qualifying person’ is their dependent parent, he or she does not have to physically live with the taxpayer.