In order to file your income tax return, you must be certain to choose the correct filing status. Your filing status will determine your income tax rate and standard deduction. Also, it will determine other deductions, credits, and tax exclusions. So, you can see how important it is to choose the correct one.
There are five income tax filing statuses according to the IRS. They are single, head of household, qualifying widow(er), married filing jointly, and married filing separately. Here are some facts regarding the filing status categories you need to take into consideration:
Single. If you are unmarried at year end, you can file as single. This only applies, however, if you do not meet the tests that are involved in determining whether you are head of household or qualifying widow(er). Single filing status is known for paying more taxes than the other filing statuses, in general.
If you are divorced as of year end (and have a FINAL divorce decree or separate maintenance agreement), the IRS will consider you unmarried for the entire year. File as a single taxpayer. However, if you meet the support test (more than 50% of their household costs) for another dependent – you need to file as a HOH.
Head of household (HOH). To qualify as a HOH, you must pay more than 50% of the household costs for a qualifying dependent living with you. This dependent may be a child or relative. Or, the dependent you pay over 50% of their support may be a parent, whether or not they reside with you.
Qualifying widow(er). There are four tests you must meet in order to qualify for filing as a qualifying widow(er) on your 2006 income tax return. They are:
You must have paid over 50% of the household costs (support) for a dependent child in 2006. You must have been widowed (your spouse died) in either 2004 or 2005. And..You were entitled to file a joint return in the year your spouse died. This means you had the option to file jointly. It does not mean you were required to. You cannot have remarried during the year. Married individuals:
Married individuals can choose between two filing statuses. They are: married filing jointly or married filing separately. The topic of marriage provides many rules and stipulations.
Married filing jointly. In order to qualify for the income tax filing status of married filing jointly, you must have been married as of year end. Marriage, according to the IRS, involves a legal union between a man and woman.
When filing married jointly, both you and your spouse must sign your tax return.
If you were separated (with a provisional decree) or living apart from your spouse as of the end of the year, you are considered married. You can file a joint return or claim the filing status of married filing separately. However, if you paid over 50% of the costs associated with a dependent, you can file as an unmarried head of household.
If you are involved in a common law marriage (recognized by the state you reside in) and are living together as of year end, you are considered married by the IRS. Choose either married filing jointly or married filing separately.
For more details of the different income tax filing statuses available, see Publication 17 – Your Federal Income Tax. Here you will learn about the
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|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|