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A Guide to Filing Status Options on Tax Returns

In general, your tax filing status is determined by what your situation is on December 31st of that tax year. So for example, if you get married on December 30th, you are considered married for that whole tax year even though you got married at the very end of the year. With your specific situation, you may qualify for more than one status so you want to choose the one where you pay the least amount of tax. An example of that is if you are not married but have a qualifying child for Head of Household purposes, you would choose Head of Household over Single because it gives you the greatest tax benefit. Below is an outline of the Five Filing Statuses:

• Single – this is for taxpayers who are unmarried, divorced, or legally separated under a divorce or separate maintenance decree governed by state law.

• Married filing jointly – if a taxpayer is married as of December 31st, a joint return can be filed with their spouse. If a spouse passes away during the year, the widowed spouse can usually file a joint return for that year.

• Married filing separately – Married couples can choose to file separate tax returns. You should consult your tax advisor if you feel you may benefit from filing separate, your preparer should be able to give you a comparison of which status is more beneficial for you.

• Head of household – Unmarried taxpayers may be able to file using this status but special rules apply. One of the conditions is that the taxpayer must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for themselves and a qualifying person living in the home for half the year.

• Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child – This status may apply to a taxpayer if their spouse died during one of the previous two years and they have a dependent child. Other conditions also apply.

The IRS also has a tool you can use to determine what your filing status is:

Please consult your tax advisor on all the above information.

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