What filing status should I choose when filing my taxes?

This article was last edited on Dec. 7, 2012. For updated information on Filing Statuses, visit this post.

As the end of 2012 winds down, it is important to know which filing status applies to you and how it will affect the amount of taxes you could owe. Your federal tax filing status, which is based on your marital and family situation, is used to determine your filing requirements, eligibility for certain credits, what your standard deduction is, whether you must file a return and your correct tax. Your marital status on the last day of the year determines your status for the entire year. If more than one filing status applies to you, you may choose the one that gives you the lowest tax obligation.


Your filing status is single if, on the last day of the year, you are unmarried or legally separated from your spouse under a divorce or separate maintenance decree, and you do not qualify for another filing status. For federal tax purposes, a marriage means only a legal union between a man and a woman as husband and wife. The Standard Deduction for taxpayer’s filing as Single is $5,950 for the 2012 tax year.

Married Filing Jointly

A married couple may file a joint return together. If your spouse died during the year, you may still file a joint return with that spouse for the year of death. On a joint return, you report your combined income and deduct your combined allowable expenses. You can file a joint return even if one of you had no income or deductions. If you and your spouse decide to file a joint return, your tax may be lower than your combined tax for the other filing statuses. Also, your standard deduction (if you do not itemize deductions) may be higher, and you may qualify for tax benefits that do not apply to other filing statuses. The Standard Deduction for Married Filing Jointly is $11,900 for the 2012 tax year.

Married Filing Separate

You can choose married filing separately as your filing status if you are married. This filing status may benefit you if you want to be responsible only for your own tax or if it results in less tax than filing a joint return. If you and your spouse do not agree to file a joint return, you have to use this filing status unless you qualify for head of household status. The Standard Deduction for Married Filing Separate will be $5,950 for the 2012 tax year. NOTE- when one spouse itemizes deductions the other spouse cannot claim the standard deduction, and therefore must itemize to claim their allowable deductions.

Head of Household

You may be able to file as head of household if you meet all the following requirements. The Standard Deduction for Head of Household will be $8,700 for the 2012 tax year.

  • You are unmarried or “considered unmarried” on the last day of the year; and
  • You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year; and
  • A “qualifying person” lived with you in the home for more than half the year (except for temporary absences, such as school). However, if the “qualifying person” is your dependent parent, he or she does not have to live with you.

Qualifying Widow(er) with a Dependent Child

You may be eligible to use qualifying widow(er) with dependent child as your filing status for 2 years following the year your spouse died. For example, if your spouse died in 2010 and you have not remarried, you may be able to use this filing status for 2011 and 2012. This filing status entitles you to use joint return tax rates and the highest standard deduction amount (if you do not itemize deductions). This status does not entitle you to file a joint return.


Filing Status For Your State Returns

When creating your state return you have the option to choose from Resident, NonResident and Part Year status (based on the state you live in).

Resident– generally you are considered a resident of a state if you have a permanent place to live in that state for the entire tax year regardless of brief, infrequent absences.

Part-Year and Non-resident status is determined on a state-by-state basis. You can view the guidelines for your particular state by logging in to our program, clicking State Section > select the state name from the drop-down menu > Create State return.


For more information about filing status see Pub 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information available on the IRS Website.

Related Posts