What is my Filing Status
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What is my Filing Status

There are five filing statuses. This seems to cause some confusion so I will try to explain it in a simple manner. (For more detailed information on filing statuses go here)

  • Single
  • Married filing jointly (MFJ)
  • Married filing seperately (MFS)
  • Head of Household (HOH)
  • Qualifying Widower (QW)

You will file single if unmarried or separated from your spouse, either by divorce or a separate maintenance decree, on December 31. A widow(er) whose spouse died before 2014 is single unless meets the tests for qualifying widow(er).

Married Filing Jointly (MFJ)
You may file jointly if on the last day of the year you are:

  • Married and living together
  • Married and living apart, but not legally separated or divorced, 
  • Separated under a divorce decree that is not final, or
  • Living in a common-law marriage, if your state recognizes this arrangement.
If your spouse died in 2014, the you can file jointly with the decedent if you as a couple met one of the above tests on the date of death and you did not remarry in 2014. See IRS page here.

Same-sex marriages.  For federal tax purposes, the term spouse includes a person married to another of the same sex if the couple is lawfully married under state (or foreign) law, even if the state (or foreign country) where they now live does not recognize this arrangement (Rev. Rul. 2013-17). But those who merely 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.

Married Filing Seperately (MFS)
If you are married at year end, you can elect to file separately.
HOWEVER proceed with caution as there are many disadvantages to using this filing status. Please consult your tax advisor before choosing this filing status.

Head of Household
You may be able to file as head of household if you meet all the following requirements.

  1. You are unmarried or “considered unmarried” on the last day of the year. See Marital Status , earlier, and Considered Unmarried , here at irs.gov/pub17.
  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 does not have to live with you. See Special rule for parent , under Qualifying Person.
  4. You are a U.S. citizen or resident during the ENTIRE year.

If you qualify to file as head of household, your tax rate usually will be lower than the rates for single or married filing separately. You will also receive a higher standard deduction than if you file as single or married filing separately.

Qualifying Widow(er)
Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child
If your spouse died in 2014, you can use married filing jointly as your filing status for 2014 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. See Married Filing Jointly , earlier.
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 2013, and you have not remarried, you may be able to use this filing status for 2014 and 2015.
This filing status entitles you to use joint return tax rates and the highest standard deduction amount (if you do not itemize deductions). It does not entitle you to file a joint return.
How to file.   If you file as qualifying widow(er) with dependent child, you can use Form 1040. If you also have taxable income of less than $100,000 and meet certain other conditions, you may be able to file Form 1040A. Check the box on line 5 of either form. Use the Married filing jointly column of the Tax Table or Section B of the Tax Computation Worksheet to figure your tax.

Eligibility rules.   You are eligible to file your 2014 return as a qualifying widow(er) with dependent child if you meet all of the following tests.
  • You were entitled to file a joint return with your spouse for the year your spouse died. It does not matter whether you actually filed a joint return.
  • Your spouse died in 2012 or 2013 and you did not remarry before the end of 2014.
  • You have a child or stepchild for whom you can claim an exemption. This does not include a foster child.
  • This child lived in your home all year, except for temporary absences. See Temporary absences , earlier, under Head of Household. There are also exceptions, described later, for a child who was born or died during the year and for a kidnapped child.
  • You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year. See Keeping Up a Home , earlier, under Head of Household.

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