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How to determine tax filing status

How to File Your Taxes - Filing Status and Exemptions Step 2 of 10

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Step 1: Determine What Status You Qualify For

    One of the first things you must determine in order to prepare your taxes is your filing status. Your filing status helps determine how large of a deduction you can take and the level of your taxable income for the year will be.c The filing status you use is typically determined by your marital status on the last day of the year.c The IRS has authorized five different filing statuses for taxpayers:

Step 2: Determine if Changes in Your Marriage Affect Your Tax Filing Status

Changes in your marriage. resulting from the death of a spouse or from divorce or annulment, can affect your filing status.

Death of a Spouse

You may be a qualifying widow or widower if your spouse dies. If you qualify, you may be able to continue filing a joint return (typically putting you in a more favorable bracket) for up to two years after the year of your spouse's death. Restrictions are that you must remain single over those two years and you must also pay more than half of the cost of maintaining a home for a dependent child during that time. When the two years are over, you may qualify as head of household for filing purposes. If you have remarried before the end of the same tax year, you may file your taxes as a joint return with your new spouse, while your deceased spouse's filing status will be married filing separately in that

tax year.c c

Abandoned Spouse Rule

If you are married at the end of the tax year and lived with a child but were apart from your spouse for at least half of that year, you can qualify as head of household for filing purposes, under the so-called abandoned spouse rule.c


For tax filing purposes, if you have obtained a divorce under a final decree by the last day of the year, you are considered to be unmarried for the entire year. However, if you have obtained a divorce during one year for the sole purpose of filing your tax returns under the unmarried status and at the time of divorce you had intended to and did later remarry your spouse in the next tax year, you and your spouse must file your tax returns as married individuals. This rule is in place to prevent fraud.c


If you have obtained an annulment by court decree (holding that there was never a valid marriage), you are considered to be an unmarried person, even if you had filed your tax returns jointly in previous years. However, you must file amended tax returns changing your filing status to either single or head of household for each tax year affected by the annulment decree, except for those years that have been closed by the statute of limitations for filing an amended return. Generally, this statute of limitations doesn't end until three years after you filed the original return.c

Step 3: Determine Which Status Is Best For You

Category: Taxes

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