Your filing status generally depends on your situation at year end. Are you married? Are you unmarried, but maintain a home for a qualifying dependent? Basically, there are five filing status categories:
Single (S) – A single filer is someone that was unmarried, separated or divorced at the end of the year.
Married Filing Jointly (MFJ) – Taxpayers who are married at the end of the year can file married filing jointly. If your spouse died during the year, the survivor may still file MFJ for that year. Starting in 2014, the IRS will also allow same-sex married couples to file jointly as long as they were married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriages.
Married Filing Separately (MFS) – If you are married, you can file MFJ or married filing separately. The amount of tax due is generally lower with MFJ, but some couples prefer to file separately to use their own income, exemptions, deductions and credits.
Head of Household (HH) – Unmarried taxpayers who maintain a household for a qualifying person can file as head of household. To qualify for HH, the taxpayer must pay more than half the cost of maintaining a household for a qualified person (principal home).
Qualified Persons – Child, grandchild, parents, grandparents, siblings, step child, adopted child, step-family members, in-laws and blood uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews.
Qualified Widow(er) with dependent child – A taxpayer can use this filing status for the two tax filing years after the death of their spouse if the taxpayer has a qualified dependent.
Requirements for Qualifying Widow(er) w/dependent child (all must apply):
- Taxpayer was entitled to file a joint return in the year of their spouse's death
- The taxpayer did not remarry before the end of the tax year
- Has a qualified child, stepchild, adopted child or foster child for the year
- Paid for more than half of the home upkeep for the taxpayer and child
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