DEFINITION of 'Filing Status'

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

BREAKING DOWN 'Filing Status'

The filing status is important because a person's tax bracket (and, therefore, the amount he or she must pay) is determined by marital status, 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 does not fall under the “single” category for tax purposes. Single filers have lower income limits for most exemptions.

Federal Income Tax Rate

Income Range for Single Taxpayer

10%

$0 - $9,525

12%

$9,526 - $38,700

22%

$38,701 - $82,500

24%

$82,501 - $157,500

32%

$157,501 - $200,000

35%

$200,001 - $500,000

37%

over $500,000

Standard Deduction

$12,000

Married person filing jointly or surviving spouse

An individual that is married by the end of the tax year can file his or her tax returns jointly with his or her 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 will often provide a bigger tax refund or a lower tax liability.

Federal Income Tax Rate

Income Range for Taxpayer who is Married Filing Jointly

10%

$0 - $19,050

12%

$19,051 - $77,400

22%

$77,401 - $165,000

24%

$165,001 - $315,000

32%

$315,001 - $400,000

35%

$400,001 - $600,000

37%

over $600,000

Standard Deduction

$24,000

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.

Married person filing separately

Married filing separately is a tax filing status used by married taxpayers who choose to record their respective incomes, exemptions, and deductions on separate tax returns. Married filing separately may be appealing to couples who find that combining their incomes pushes them into a higher tax bracket than either of them would be in if they filed separately. There is a potential tax advantage to filing separately when one spouse has significant medical expenses or miscellaneous itemized deductions.

The standard deduction and tax bracket for married taxpayers filing separately, as of 2018, is the same as that for a single taxpayer, except for the 35% and 37% brackets which have taxable income ranges of $200,001 to $300,000, and any amount greater than $300,000, respectively.

Federal Income Tax Rate

Income Range for Single Taxpayer

10%

$0 - $9,525

12%

$9,526 - $38,700

22%

$38,701 - $82,500

24%

$82,501 - $157,500

32%

$157,501 - $200,000

35%

$200,001 - $300,000

37%

over $300,000

Standard Deduction

$12,000

Head of household

A head of household is a single or unmarried taxpayer who pays at least 50% of the costs of supporting his or her household and lives with other qualifying family members for whom s/he provides 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, brother, sister, grandparent or anyone else you can claim as an exemption.

Head of households benefit from a lower tax rate.

Federal Income Tax Rate

Income Range for Taxpayer filing as the Head of Household

10%

$0 - $13,600

12%

$13,601 - $51,800

22%

$51,801 - $82,500

24%

$82,501 - $157,500

32%

$157,501 - $200,000

35%

$200,001 - $500,000

37%

over $500,000

Standard Deduction

$18,000

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 widow or widower. While the surviving spouse cannot continue to claim an exemption for the deceased spouse, s/he may claim the standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly.

The tax bracket and income range for widow(ers) is the same as that for married filing jointly.

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