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Why it’s important for taxpayers to know their filing status

The IRS reminds us that our filing status is determinate on December 31 of each tax year, and a description of each filing status!

When a taxpayer files their tax return, they need to know their filing status. What folks should remember is that a taxpayer’s status could change during the year. So, any time is a good a time for a taxpayer to learn about the different filing statuses and which one is best for them.

Knowing the correct filing status can help taxpayers determine several things about filing their tax return:

  • Is the taxpayer required to file a federal tax return or should they file to receive a refund?
  • What is their standard deduction amount?
  • Is the taxpayer eligibility for certain credits?
  • How much tax they should pay?

The taxpayer’s filing status generally depends on whether they are single or married on Dec. 31 and that is their status for the whole year.

Here’s a list of filing statuses and a description of who claims them:

  • Single. Normally this status is for taxpayers who are unmarried, divorced or legally separated under a divorce or separate maintenance decree governed by state law.
  • Married filing jointly. If a taxpayer is married, they can file a joint tax return with their spouse. When a spouse passes away, the widowed spouse can usually file a joint return for that year.
  • Married filing separately. Alternatively, married couples can choose to file separate tax returns. It may result in less tax owed than filing a joint tax return.
  • Head of household. Unmarried taxpayers may be able file using this status, but special rules apply. For example, the taxpayer must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for themselves and a qualifying person living in the home for half the year. Taxpayers should check the rules to make sure they qualify.
  • Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child. This status may apply to a taxpayer if their spouse died during one of the previous two years and they have a dependent child. Other conditions also apply.

More than one filing status may apply and taxpayers can generally choose the filing status the allows them to pay the least amount of tax.

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