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Why it’s important to know and understand your correct filing status

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

As you get ready for the upcoming filing season, it’s important to know your correct filing status. Your filing status defines the type of tax return form you should use when filing your taxes. Filing status can affect the amount of tax you owe, and it may even determine if you must file a tax return at all.

There are five IRS filing statuses. They generally depend on your marital status as of Dec.31. However, more than one filing status may apply in certain situations. If this is the case, you can usually choose the filing status that allows you to pay the least amount of taxes.

When preparing and filing a tax return, the filing status affects:

  • If you’re required to file a federal tax return

  • If you should file a return to receive a refund

  • Your standard deduction amounts

  • If you can claim certain credits

  • The amount of taxes you should pay

Here are the five filing statuses:

  • Single

Normally this status is if you’re unmarried, divorced or legally separated under a divorce or separate maintenance decree governed by state law.

  • Married filing jointly

If married, you can file a joint tax return with your spouse. When a spouse passes away, the widowed spouse can usually file a joint return for that year.

  • Married filing separately

Married couples can choose to file separate tax returns. When doing so it may result in less tax owed than filing a joint tax return.

  • Head of household

If unmarried you may be able to file using this status, but special rules apply. For example, you must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for yourself and a qualifying person living in the home for half the year.

  • Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child

This status may apply to you if your spouse died during one of the previous two years and you have a dependent child. Other conditions also apply.

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