Doing your taxes involves more than just crunching numbers. It requires you to classify yourself based on your circumstances: your income, if you’re married, if you have kids, etc. These sound like easy questions to answer, but sometimes the situation is more complicated. Get the facts and find out what your filing status is.
You qualify for the Single status if you are not married, divorced, or legally separated from a spouse. You will get the standard deduction of $12,400.
Use this filing status if:
- You are in high school or college and are not married.
- You live alone and are not married.
- You live with your parents and are their dependent.
Head of household (HoH)
To file as HoH, you must:
- Pay for more than half of your household’s expenses.
- Be unmarried for that tax year
- Have a qualifying child or dependent.
If you file as head of household, you will get a standard deduction of $18,650.
Married filing jointly
As long as you and your spouse are legally married, you can qualify for this status. If you get married before the last day of the calendar year, you are considered married for the entire year for tax purposes. You get a larger standard deduction of $24,800 if you choose to file jointly.
Married filing single
You could qualify for this filing status if you are legally married to your spouse. As with married filing jointly, it doesn’t matter whether you were married in January or the last day of December. For tax purposes, you are considered married for the entire year. In the case of married filing separately, each spouse files their own tax return. There are several reasons you might want to do this, including if you are separated but not legally divorced from your spouse. Read more about filing separately here.
Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child
If your spouse recently passed away and you have a dependent child, you can file as a widow(er). This allows you to keep the benefits of married filing jointly for two years after your spouse’s death.
Can I choose my filing status?
If more than one category applies to you, such as married filing single and married filing jointly, you can choose whichever one results in the lowest tax liability. If only one status applies to you, such as single, you must use that filing status.
Am I a dependent?
If you are under the age of 24, are not married, have no children, are a full-time student, and your parents provide you with financial help that is greater than half of your annual income, you are a dependent. Your parents can claim you on their tax return, and you must also report that you are their dependent on your return.
For more info about who can be claimed as a dependent, read this article from our knowledgebase.
This article is up to date and accounts for tax law changes for tax year 2020 (tax returns filed in 2021).