Start For Free

Fast, Secure, and Always Accurate!

Back to List

Category: Tax Advice

What filing status should I choose?

You should select your federal filing status based on your marital status and family situation. Selecting the correct status is an important factor for whether you must file a return, what your standard deduction is, and having the correct amount of tax calculated.

Your marital status on the last day of the year determines your status for the entire year. If more than one filing status applies, you may choose the one that gives you the lowest tax obligation.


The program cannot choose your filing status for you, but we can provide information for you to make the best choice for you based on your situation. We offer a helpful "Filing Status Guide" which will walk you through several questions so that you may accurately determine which status is correct for you. Make sure you read the guidelines, so errors are not made when choosing a filing status.


According to the IRS, "For federal tax purposes, individuals of the same sex are considered married if they were lawfully married in a state (or foreign country) whose laws authorize the marriage of two individuals of the same sex, even if the state (or foreign country) in which they now live does not recognize same-sex marriage. The term “spouse” includes an individual married to a person of the same sex if the couple is lawfully married under state (or foreign) law. However, individuals who have entered into a registered domestic partnership, civil union, or other similar relationship that is not considered a marriage under state (or foreign) law are not considered married for federal tax purposes."


Single - 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. The Standard Deduction for taxpayer's filing as Single is $12,000 for the 2018 tax year.


Married Filing Joint - On a joint return, you report the combined income of both spouses 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 other filing statuses. Also, the 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 Joint is $24,000 for the 2018 tax year.


Married Filing Separate - Even if you are married, you may select to file separately. If you want to be responsible only for your tax, then this filing status may benefit you. Some married couples find using the Married Filing Separate filing status can result 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 is $12,000 for the 2018 tax year.


*Note- when one spouse itemizes deductions the other spouse cannot claim the standard deduction, and therefore must also itemize to claim their allowable deductions. Please click here to view the special rules associated with this filing status.  


Head of Household - If you meet all three of the following requirements, you may be able to file as head of household per the IRS:

1. "You are unmarried or considered unmarried on the last day of the year."

2. "You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year.

3. "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 doesn't have to live with you."

The Standard Deduction for Head of Household is $18,000 for the 2018 tax year.


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 2015 and you have not remarried, you may be able to use this filing status for 2016 and 2017. This filing status entitles you to use joint return tax rates and the highest standard deduction ($24,000 for 2018) amount (if you do not itemize deductions). This status does not entitle you to file a joint return.


*If your spouse died during the current tax year, you can use married filing jointly as your filing status for this year if you otherwise qualify to use that status. The year of death is the last year for which you can file jointly with your deceased spouse.


For more information about filing status see Pub 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information. You may find Interactive Tax Assistant for "What Is My Filing Status?" on the website useful. 


Additional Information: Life Events that may have a significant tax impact: click here