Filing Status ()

Report
FILING STATUS
GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
Filing status is based on the marital/family
status of the taxpayer.
 It impacts the calculation of income tax, the
amount of the standard deduction, and certain
credits and deductions.
 Taxpayers must use only ONE filing status. If
they qualify for more than one status, they
should choose the one that is most advantageous.
 The preparer, not the taxpayer, determines the
status(es) for which the taxpayer qualifies.

FIVE FILING STATUSES
FROM MOST TO LEAST BENEFICIAL
(BY STANDARD DEDUCTIONS, ETC)
Married Filing Jointly
 Qualifying Widow(er) w/Dependent Child
 Head of Household
 Single
 Married Filing Separately


$11,400
$11,400
$ 8,400
$ 5,700
$ 5,700
(The dollar figures listed above are for taxpayers
under 65 years of age.)
TO DETERMINE THE APPROPRIATE FILING STATUS,
CHECK MARITAL STATUS AS OF 12-31-11

Persons are married for tax purposes for the
entire year if:
They were married on the last day of the tax year, or
 The spouse died during the year and the surviving
spouse has not remarried.


A person is single for tax purposes if, on the last
day of the tax year, he or she was:
Never married
 Legally separated or divorced
 Widowed before the first day of the tax year and not
remarried during the year

MARRIED FILING JOINTLY



This is the normal status for spouses living together,
even if one did not have income or deductions.
Taxpayers who file a joint return combine their
income and deductions on the same return.
Both husband and wife:
Must sign the return, and
 Are responsible for any tax owed on the return.



The Married Filing Jointly status generally provides
a lower combined tax than any other filing status.
A taxpayer whose spouse died during the tax year
and has not remarried may usually file a joint return.
MARRIED FILING SEPARATELY

The Married Filing Separately status is for
taxpayers who qualify as married and either:
Choose to file separate returns, or
 Cannot agree to file a joint return.



The spouses each report their own incomes and
deductions on separate returns, even if one
spouse had no income.
Spouses living together may choose to file
separately, but usually file jointly. Most people
who file separately are no longer living
together but have not finalized a divorce.
DISADVANTAGES OF THE
MARRIED FILING SEPARATELY STATUS
The tax rate is generally higher than on a joint
return.
 Taxpayers cannot take credits for child and
dependent care expenses, earned income,
and/or certain adoption and education
expenses.
 Some credits and deductions are reduced at
income levels that are half those for a joint
return such as the child tax credit, retirement
savings contribution credit, itemized
deductions, and the deduction for personal
exemptions.

MARRIED FILING SEPARATELY –
SPOUSES LIVING TOGETHER
If taxpayers living together want to file
separately, find out why. There are valid
reasons:
 One common reason is to avoid an offset of their
refund against one spouse's prior debt.



past-due child support, past-due student loans, or a
tax liability of a spouse incurred before the marriage
Or, in certain cases, filing separately may result
in a lower total tax.

If one spouse has high medical or certain other
expenses, separate returns may result in lower taxes
because a lower adjusted gross income allows more
expenses or losses to be deducted.
MARRIED FILING SEPARATELY –
POSSIBLE PROBLEMS,
ESPECIALLY FOR SPOUSES LIVING APART


A married taxpayer who files separately must
show the spouse's name and social security
number or ITIN on the return.
If a married couple files separately and one
spouse itemizes deductions, the other spouse
must either:
Also itemize deductions, or
 Claim "0" (zero) as the standard deduction.


In other words, a taxpayer whose spouse itemizes
deductions cannot take the standard deduction.
QUALIFYING WIDOW(ER)
WITH DEPENDENT CHILD

A taxpayer may use this status during the first
two years after the death of a spouse, if taxpayer:
Has not remarried before the end of the tax year,
 Was eligible to file a joint return for the year the
spouse died; it does not matter if a joint return was
actually filed,
 Has a child, stepchild, or adopted child who qualifies
as the taxpayer's qualifying child for the year (foster
child does not count), or
 Furnished over half the cost of keeping up the child's
home for the entire year.


Social Security benefits received on behalf of the child are
considered to be amounts furnished by the child, not by the
parent.
FILING STATUS TO USE FOR WIDOW(ER)
The following chart shows which filing status to use for a widowed
taxpayer who does not remarry and has a qualifying dependent.
Tax Year
Filing Status
Exemption for
deceased spouse
Year of death
Married Filing
Jointly
Yes
First year after death Qualifying Widow(er)
No
Second year after
death
Qualifying Widow(er)
No
After second year
Head of household
No
HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD:
A TAXPAYER SUPPORTING A “QUALIFYING PERSON”
The taxpayer either:
o Was unmarried on the last day of the year, or
o Met the tests for married persons living apart with
dependent children.

Note that rules are different for these two situations.
o Paid more than half the cost of keeping up the main home.
Valid household expenses include rent, mortgage interest, real
estate taxes, home insurance, repairs, utilities, domestic help,
food eaten in the home.
 Welfare payments are not considered amounts that the
taxpayer provides to keep up a home.

o Had a qualifying person living in their home with them
more than half the year (except for temporary absences).

Temporary absences include those for school, vacation, illness,
business, or military service.
HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD – UNMARRIED TAXPAYER:
WHO IS A “QUALIFYING PERSON”?


The qualifying person must be related to the taxpayer.
A qualifying person is defined as:
A qualifying child.
 A married child who can be claimed as a dependent.
 A dependent parent (does not have to live with taxpayer.)
 A dependent “qualifying relative” who lived with the taxpayer
more than half the year and is one of the relatives listed in
the Volunteer Resource Guide (Tab C), Table 2: Dependency
Exemption for Qualifying Relative under Step 2.


Taxpayers cannot claim the Head of Household status if
the only dependent they can claim is under a multiple
support agreement.
HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD – MARRIED TAXPAYER
“CONSIDERED AS UNMARRIED”

Married taxpayers who live apart from their
spouses and provide for dependent children may
be considered “unmarried” for tax purposes and
may file as Head of Household if:




The taxpayer chooses to not file a joint return with
his or her spouse,
The taxpayer's spouse did not live in the home during
the last six months of the year (temporary absences
do not count),
The taxpayer's home was the main home of the
taxpayer's qualifying child, stepchild, or eligible
foster child for more than half the year,
The taxpayer paid more than half the cost of keeping
up the qualifying child's home for the year.
QUALIFYING PERSON FOR TAXPAYER
“CONSIDERED AS UNMARRIED”
The rules for married taxpayers considered as
unmarried are stricter than those for
unmarried taxpayers.
o Only the taxpayer’s qualifying child, stepchild
or eligible foster child can count as a qualifying
person.
o The taxpayer must be able to claim the child
as a dependent.
o The taxpayer's home must have been the main
home of child for more than half the year.
o
SINGLE
o
This status is used by taxpayers who
Were not married on the last day of the tax year, and
• Were not supporting a qualifying person.
•

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