Choosing the Right Filing Status

Tax forms US


Using the correct filing status is very important when filing your tax return, it can affect how much you pay in taxes and may even affect whether you must file a tax return.  When choosing a filing status, keep in mind that your marital status on Dec. 31 is your status for the whole year.   If more than one filing status applies to you, choose the one that will result in the lowest tax.

Note for same-sex married couples:   New rules apply to you if you were legally married in a state or foreign country that recognizes same-sex marriage.  You and your spouse generally must use a married filing status on your 2014 Federal tax return.  This is true even if you and your spouse now live in a state or foreign country that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

Following is a list of the five filing statuses to help you choose:

1. Single.  This status normally applies if you are not married, or are divorced or legally separated under state law.

2. Married Filing Jointly.  A married couple can file one tax return together.  If your spouse died in 2014, you usually can still file a joint return for that year.

3. Married Filing Separately.  A married couple can choose to file two separate tax returns instead of one joint return.  This status may be to your benefit if it results in less tax.  You can also use it if you want to be responsible only for your own tax.

4. Head of Household.  This status normally applies if you are not married.   You also must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for yourself and a qualifying person.  Some people choose this status by mistake.  Be sure to check all the rules before you file.

5. Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child.  If your spouse died during 2013 or 2014 and you have a dependent child, this status may apply.  Certain other conditions also apply.

For more information, see and the instructions for your tax return.