Choose the right filing status

Posted on Feb 11, 2011

While gathering information to complete your income tax return, you may give little thought to your filing status. But there’s a reason “filing status” choices appear at the beginning of tax forms: They’re important.

Why? Because filing status can impact exemptions, reportable income, deductions, credits, tax rates, liability, the type of form you file, and whether you need to file at all. In addition, some states require that you use the status reported on your federal return, which can affect the amount of state tax you pay.

Here are facts to consider when determining filing status.

1. Your status generally depends on whether you’re married or single on the last day of your taxable year (typically December 31). In cases of divorce or separate maintenance decrees, the laws of your state determine whether you’re considered married or single. Same-sex marriages are not recognized for federal income tax purposes.

2. As a married couple, you can choose joint or separate returns. When you file separately, you can change your mind later and amend your return to file jointly. However, you can’t switch from joint status to married filing separately after the due date of the original return.

3. If you were widowed during the year and have not remarried, you have the option of filing jointly with your late spouse. When you’re widowed and have dependent children, you can continue to use joint tax rates for two additional years following the year your spouse died.

4. Head of household status is intended for single taxpayers with dependent children. It may also be available when you’re single and maintaining a separate household for a parent – including one living in a nursing home.

Questions about your filing status? Please contact us if you need more information.