Filing Status

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 does not fall under the "single" category for tax purposes. Single filers have lower income limits for most exemptions.

For Tax Year 2021 and 2022
 
Federal Income Tax Rate 
 
Income Range for Single Taxpayer for 2021
Income Range for Single Taxpayer for 2022
 
10%
 
$0–$9,950 
$0-$10,275
 
12%
 
$9,951-$40,525 
$10,276-$41,775
 
22%
 
$40,526-$86,375 
$41,776-$89,075
 
24%
 
$86,376-$164,925 
$89,076-$170,050
 
32%
 
$164,926-$209,425 
$170,051-$215,950
 
35%
 
$209,426-$523,600 
$215,951-$539,900
 
37%
 
Over $523,600 
Over $529,900
 
Standard Deduction
 
$12,5500 
$12,950

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 2021 and 2022
 
Federal Income Tax Rate
 
Income Range for Taxpayer who is Married Filing Jointly in 2021
Income Range for Taxpayer who is Married Filing Jointly in 2022
 
10%
 
$0–$19,900 
$0-$20,550
 
12%
 
$19,901-$81,050 
$20,551-$83,550
 
22%
 
$81,051-$172,750 
$83,551-$178,150
 
24%
 
$172,751-$329,850 
$178,151-$340,100
 
32%
 
$329,851-$418,850 
$340,101-$431,900
 
35%
 
$418,851-$628,300 
$431,901-$647,850
 
37%
 
Over $628,300 
Over $647,850
 
Standard Deduction
 
$25,100 
$25,900

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 households benefits from a lower tax rate.

For Tax Years 2021 and 2022
 
Federal Income Tax Rate
 
Income Range for Taxpayer filing as the Head of Household for 2021
Income Range for Taxpayer filing as the Head of Household for 2022
 
10%
 
$0–$14,200 
$0-$14,650
 
12%
 
$14,201–$54,200 
$14,651-$55,900
 
22%
 
$54,201-$86,350 
$55,901-$89,050
 
24%
 
$86,351-$164,900 
$89,051-$170,050
 
32%
 
$164,901-$209,400 
$170,051-$215,950
 
35%
 
$209,401-$523,600 
$215,951-$539,900
 
37%
 
Over $523,600 
Over $539,900
 
Standard Deduction
 
$18,800 
$19,400

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

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Internal Revenue Service. "Tax Forms and Instructions 2022." Accessed Dec. 26, 2021.

  2. Internal Revenue Service. "Choosing the Correct Filing Status." Accessed Dec. 26, 2021.

  3. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 501: Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information," Pages 5 and 6. Accessed Dec. 26, 2021.

  4. Internal Revenue Service. "Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Registered Domestic Partners and Individuals in Civil Unions." Accessed Dec. 26, 2021.

  5. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 501: Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information," Pages 8–10. Accessed Dec. 26, 2021.

  6. Internal Revenue Service. "Tax Forms and Instructions 2021." Accessed Dec. 26, 2021.

  7. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 501: Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information," Page 7. Accessed Dec. 26, 2021.

  8. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 501: Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information," Page 8. Accessed Dec. 26, 2021.

  9. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 501: Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information," Pages 9 and 10. Accessed Dec. 26, 2021.

  10. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 501: Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information," Page 9. Accessed Dec. 26, 2021.