Filing Status Definition

What Is Filing Status?

Filing status is a category that defines the type of tax return form a taxpayer must use when filing their taxes. Filing status is closely tied to marital status.

Understanding Filing Status

The filing status is important because an individual's tax bracket (and, therefore, the amount they must pay) is determined by marital status, the number of children, occupation, and several other factors. You must file your status honestly, or it will be considered fraudulent and penalties will be assessed.

For federal income tax purposes, a taxpayer falls into one of five categories: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, and qualifying widow(er) with dependent children.

Single Filer

A single filer is a taxpayer that is unmarried, divorced, a registered domestic partner, or legally separated according to state law as of the last day of the tax year. The head of a household or a person who is widowed may not fall under the "single" category for tax purposes. Single filers have lower income limits for most exemptions.

For Tax Year 2022 and 2023
  Federal Income Tax Rate  Income Range for Single Taxpayer for 2022 Income Range for Single Taxpayer for 2023
  10% $0-$10,275 $0-$11,000
  12% $10,276-$41,775 $11,001-$44,725
  22% $41,776-$89,075 $44,726-95,375
  24% $89,076-$170,050 $95,376-$182,100
  32% $170,051-$215,950 $182,101- $231,250
  35% $215,951-$539,900 $231,251 - $578,125
  37% Over $539,900 Over $578,125
  Standard Deduction $12,950 $13,850

Married Person Filing Jointly or Surviving Spouse

An individual that is married by the end of the tax year can file tax returns jointly with their spouse. When filing under married filing jointly status, couples can record their respective incomes, exemptions, and deductions on the same tax return. A joint tax return often provides a bigger tax refund or a lower tax liability.

For Tax Years 2022 and 2023
  Federal Income Tax Rate Income Range for Taxpayer who is Married Filing Jointly in 2022 Income Range for Taxpayers Who Are Married Filing Jointly in 2023
  10% $0-$20,550 $0-$22,000
  12% $20,551-$83,550 $22,001-$89,450
  22% $83,551-$178,150 $89,451-$190,750
  24% $178,151-$340,100 $190,751-$364,200
  32% $340,101-$431,900 $364,201-$462,500
  35% $431,901-$647,850 $462,500-$693,750
  37% Over $647,850 Over $693,751
  Standard Deduction $25,900 $27,700

Married filing jointly is best if only one spouse has a significant income. If both spouses work and the income and itemized deductions are large and very unequal, it may be more advantageous to file separately.

Head of Household

A head of household is a single or unmarried taxpayer who pays at least 50% of the costs of supporting their household and lives with other qualifying family members for whom they provide support for more than half of the year.

This means that the taxpayer must have paid more than half of the total household bills, including rent or mortgage, utility bills, insurance, property taxes, groceries, repairs, and other common household expenses. Some examples of qualifying family members include a dependent child, grandchild, sibling, grandparent, or anyone else you can claim as an exemption.

A head of household benefits from a lower tax rate.

For Tax Years 2022 and 2023
  Federal Income Tax Rate Income Range for Taxpayer filing as the Head of Household for 2022 Income Range for Taxpayer filing as Head of Household for 2023
  10% $0-$14,650 $0-$15,700
  12% $14,651-$55,900 $15,701-$59,850
  22% $55,901-$89,050 $59,851-$95,350
  24% $89,051-$170,050 $95,351-$182,100
  32% $170,051-$215,950 $182,101-$231,250
  35% $215,951-$539,900 $$231,251-$578,100
  37% Over $539,900 Over $578,101
  Standard Deduction $19,400 $20,800

Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child

During the year in which a spouse dies, the surviving spouse can typically use the joint filing status. For the two tax years following the year of a spouse's death, the surviving spouse can file as a qualifying surviving spouse. While the surviving spouse cannot continue to claim an exemption for the deceased spouse, they may claim the standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly.

The tax bracket and income range for a surviving spouse is the same as that for married filing jointly.

Article Sources
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  1. Internal Revenue Service. "Tax Forms and Instructions 2022," Pages 6-8 and 14.

  2. Internal Revenue Service. "Choosing the Correct Filing Status."

  3. Internal Revenue Service. "Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Registered Domestic Partners and Individuals in Civil Unions."

  4. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 501: Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information," Pages 5-10.

  5. Internal Revenue Service. "IRS Provides Tax Inflation Adjustments for Tax Year 2023."

  6. Internal Revenue Service. "Rev. Proc. 2022-38." Page 6.

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