What Is a Single Filer?

Single filers are American taxpayers who file their taxes under the status “single.” This filing status is used by a taxpayer who is unmarried and does not qualify for any other filing status. Single filers include, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), people who on the last day of the year are unmarried or are legally separated from a spouse under a divorce or separate maintenance decree and do not qualify for another filing status.

All persons who are required to file an income tax return with the Internal Revenue Service must choose a filing status. An individual can file under the five following statuses: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household or qualifying widow(er) with dependent child. Tax rates and standard deductions differ between the various filing statuses.

Understanding Single Filer

Single filers can use IRS form 1040EZ if they have no dependents, are under age 65 and not blind, and meet other requirements. They may also use Form 1040A or Form 1040.

Widows and widowers may be able to use the single filing status, but another filing status may prove to be more favorable them. If more than one filing status applies to a taxpayer, they may choose the one that requires them to pay the lowest amount of tax.

Head of Household

While many single people live alone and would, therefore, consider themselves the head of their own household, the IRS distinguishes between a single filer and a person considered the head of a household. Head of Household status generally only applies to an unmarried person who, for the given tax year has paid more than half of the cost of maintaining a home for themselves and a qualifying person, such as a dependent.

According to the IRS, the costs of maintaining a home may include rent or mortgage payments, utility costs, repairs, property taxes and food eaten at home. If multiple people live together and all contribute to the costs of maintaining the home, the person who pays the largest share of the costs may qualify as head of household, even if they did not pay more than 50 percent of the costs.

Generally speaking, the qualifying person whom a head of household lives with must be their child, parent or another type of relative. The person may be a domestic partner, as long at that partner does not earn any income, thereby making them considered a dependent.

People who file as head of household pay a lower tax rate than people filing as single. They also must reach a higher income level before being obligated to pay income tax.