Your marital status, as well as number of dependents are two of the biggest factors to determining which of the five filing statuses you should use to file your tax return. They are, in no particular order:
- Married, filing jointly
- Married, filing separately
- Head of household
- Qualifying widow(er)
Married couples can choose whether they want to combine their income and deductions and file one return, or each file an individual return. Married taxpayers may qualify for head of household if they have a child who lived with them for the whole year, in a residence separate from their spouse for the final six months of the tax year. If you qualify, it’s likely in your best interest to file this way, as it generally lowers your tax liability.
Taxpayers who aren’t married are usually considered single, unless they meet the strict rules for Head of household or qualifying widow(er). With the exception of dependent parents, in order to qualify as head of household, you must have provided over half the expenses for a home in which you have a child who has resided there the full year. Parents are not required to live with you.
For 2015, a taxpayer whose spouse passed away in 2014 or 2013 may be eligible to file as qualifying widow(Er) if they maintain the household expenses for themselves and a dependent child.
Deductions, credits, and exemptions are all affected by the filing status you chose, as well as the rate of taxation. This is why its extremely important to choose the most appropriate status in order to maximize benefits at tax time.