What Is My Filing Status?

Single:

Unmarried and do not qualify for another filing status.

Married:

If you are considered married and both you and your spouse agree to file jointly. On a joint return, you and your spouse report your combined income and deduct your combined allowable expenses. You can file a joint return even if one of you had no income or deductions.

Married Filing Separately:

You can choose married filing separately as your filing status if you are married. This filing status may benefit you if you want to be responsible only for your own tax or if it results in less tax than filing a joint return.  If you and your spouse don’t agree to file a joint return, you must use this filing status unless you qualify for head of household status.  However, special apply to this filing status:
  • Your tax rate generally is higher than on a joint return.
  • Your exemption amount for figuring the alternative minimum tax is half that allowed on a joint return.
  • You can’t take the credit for child and de-pendent care expenses in most cases, and the amount you can exclude from in-come under an employer's dependent care assistance program is limited to $2,500 (instead of $5,000). However, if you are legally separated or living apart from your spouse, you may be able to file a separate return and still take the credit. For more information about these expenses, the credit, and the exclusion, see chapter 32.
  • You can’t take the earned income credit.
  • You can’t take the exclusion or credit for adoption expenses in most cases.
  • You can’t take the education credits (the American opportunity credit and lifetime learning credit), or the deduction for student loan interest.
  • You can’t exclude any interest income from qualified U.S. savings bonds you used for higher education expenses.
  • If you lived with your spouse at any time during the tax year:
    You can’t claim the credit for the elderly or the disabled, and You must include in income a greater percentage (up to 85%) of any social security or equivalent railroad retirement benefits you received.
  • The following credits and deductions are reduced at income levels half of those for a joint return.
    The child tax credit.
    The retirement savings contributions credit.
    The deduction for personal exemptions.
    Itemized deductions.
  • Your capital loss deduction limit is $1,500 (instead of $3,000 on a joint return).
    If your spouse itemizes deductions, you can’t claim the standard deduction. If you can claim the standard deduction, your basic standard deduction is half of the amount allowed on a joint return.

Head of Household:

  • If you are unmarried or “considered unmarried”, (spouse did not live you the last 6 months out of the year), on the last day of the year.
  • If you paid more than half of the cost of keeping up a home for the year.
  • If you had a qualifying person lived with you in the home for more than half the year (except for temporary absences, such as school).
  • However, if the qualifying person is your dependent parent, he or she doesn't have to live with you.
  • Your home was the main home of your child, stepchild, or foster child for more than half the year.
  • You must be able to claim an exemption for the child. However, you meet this test if you can’t claim the exemption only be-cause the noncustodial parent can claim the child using the rules described in Children of divorce parents.

Qualifying Widow(er):

If your spouse died in 2017, you can use married filing jointly as your filing status for 2017.  Otherwise, you can use this filing status if the following are met:
  • You were entitled to file a joint return with your spouse for the year your spouse died.
  • Your spouse died in 2015 or 2016 and you didn't remarry before the end of 2017.
  • You have a child or stepchild (not a foster child) whom you can claim as a dependent or could claim as a dependent.