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IRS Tax Return Filing Status

The first thing you need to do when you prepare a tax return is to choose your filing status. Your IRS tax filing status is a classification that determines many things about your tax return. Choosing the right filing status will get you the lowest taxes and the biggest refund.

Filing status is used to determine such things as: filing requirements, tax rates, standard deduction, and eligibility for tax credits and tax deductions.

We have a very simple question and answer tool that helps you determined your correct Filing Status: The STATucator will determine whether you should file as Single or Head of Household for example. tax returns as well!

Five Tax Return Filing Status Types

There are five different choices of filing status, but you can only qualify for one or two in any given year, depending on your circumstances. You can only choose one filing status on your tax return, but your filing status may change from year to year.

The five filing statuses are:

  1. Single

  2. Head of Household

  3. Married Filing Jointly

  4. Married Filing Separately

  5. Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child


Single is the most basic filing status. You must file as single if you were not married on the last day of the Tax Year and you do not qualify for any other filing status.

Head of Household

Under very special circumstances, you might be able to file as Head of Household even if you are legally married. If you lived apart from your spouse for the last half of the year, and if you keep up a home for a dependent child, you might qualify for Head of Household.

You may qualify for Head of Household filing status if you were not married, you paid more than half the costs of keeping up a home, and you had a Qualifying Person.

Married - Jointly, Separately

Other than being married, there are no special qualifications for either of these filing statuses. You and your spouse may choose whether to file Jointly or Separately, but you must both use the same filing status for the year. It is a good idea to weigh the benefits of each married filing status before deciding on which one to use. Determining your marital status will narrow your choices of filing status. As a general rule, your marital status on the last day of the Tax Year (December 31) is your marital status for the entire Tax Year.

You are considered to have been married for the entire Tax Year if, on December 31, any of the following was true:

  • You were legally married and living together as husband and wife.

  • You were living together as husband and wife in a state-recognized common law marriage.

  • You were legally married but living apart, and have not made any action to legalize your separation.

  • You were legally separated under an interlocutory decree of divorce, but your divorce has not been finalized.

  • Your spouse died during the Tax Year. (you may still be able to file a joint tax return.)

Learn about the tax consequences of marriage.

You are considered unmarried for the entire Tax Year if, on December 31, any of the following was true:

  • You were never married.

  • You were legally separated (but not under an interlocutory decree of divorce).

  • Your were divorced and your divorce decree was finalized.

  • Your marriage was annulled with an official court decree of annulment.

  • You were still legally married, but were considered unmarried for the purpose of qualifying for the Head of Household filing status.

Married Filing Jointly

You may file as Married Filing Jointly if you were married on the last day of the Tax Year. You and your spouse must both agree to file a joint tax return. You may also choose this filing status if your spouse died during the year.

Married Filing Separately

You can choose Married Filing Separately if you are married and want to be responsible only for your own tax liability, and not your spouse's liability. You can also file separately if you determine that you will get a bigger refund (or lower tax liability) than if you filed jointly. You must use this filing status if you were married on December 31 but you and your spouse (or now ex-spouse) cannot agree to file a joint return.

Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child

You may file as a Qualifying Widow or Widower for the two years following the year of your spouse's death if you support a dependent child.

No matter what your filing status, makes it easy to prepare and file a tax return! We will apply all of the correct rates and amounts based on your filing status. You enter the information, and we do all the math for you. Plus, we guarantee 100% calculation accuracy!

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