Your tax liability is determined by your income along with your filing status. Your filing status is used to determine your filing requirements, standard deduction, and eligibility for certain credits. Therefore, by choosing the right filing status you can have the lowest amount of tax.

There are five tax filing statuses:

  • Single
  • Head of household,
  • Married filing separately,
  • Married filing jointly,
  • Qualifying widow(er).

Your filing status is required both on your annual tax return filing and on your W-4, which lets your employer know how much to withhold for taxes from each paycheck.

How to determine your filing status exactly?

The IRS has provided an online review to help you determine. It’s called Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA).

After all the review questions, there’ll be a filing status determined for you. You can find the review here.

Review of tax filing status

The review will start with selecting the tax year. It provides a dropbox for you.

Question 2 is about your martial status on the last day of the tax year. It’s not your marital status on the day you start the review or start the tax filing, that’s to say, if you were single on Dec 31, 2019, but married on Apr 10 when you work on your filing, you’d select “single” as your marital status as of the last day of year 2019. There’re four marital statuses to select from:

  • Single, unmarried, or legally separated
  • Married
  • Widowed (spouse died during the tax year)
  • Widowed (spouse died before the tax year)

Single, unmarried, or legally separated

If your marital status is single, unmarried or legally separated, you’ll have to answer these questions.

  1. Keeping up a home: in 2019, did you pay:
    • more than half the cost keeping up a home in which you lived, or
    • costs for keeping up a home for a parent that did not live with you?
  2. Persons for whom you may get tax benefits: you can choose to add everyone
    • Who lived with you during 2019, or
    • Who is your child, or
    • For whom you provided any financial support during 2019.
  3. Does the person you added have residency more than half of the year:a person is considered to have lived with you during periods of time when one or both of you are temporarily absent due to special circumstances such as:
    • Illness,
    • Education,
    • Business,
    • Vacation, or
    • Military service.
  4. The person’s relationship with you and the person’s date of birth
  5. Vocation of the person
  6. The person has provided own support
  7. The person’s marital status

Married

If you’re married, you’ll be asked about your intention to file a joint tax return with your spouse. If you choose Yes, your filing status is married filing jointly. If you choose No, you’ll be asked more questions.

  1. Did your spouse live in your home at any time during the last six months of 2019 (including any temporary absences)?
  2. In 2019, Did you pay:
    • more than half the cost keeping up a home in which you lived, or
    • costs for keeping up a home for a parent that did not live with you?
  3. Add the persons that you may get tax benefit from
  4. Choose the relationship with the person and the person’s residency
  5. Your filing status could be either married but filing separately, or head of household.

Widowed (spouse died during the tax year)

If you intend to file jointly with the passed spouse, your filing status is married filing jointly.

If you intend to file separately and you don’t have other person to get tax benefit from, your filing status is married filing separately.

If you intend to file separately and you do have dependents, you’re the head of household.

Widowed (spouse died before the tax year)

If your spouse passed away within two years before the tax year, and you’re entitled with a joint tax refund, and you don’t have dependents, your status is single.

If your spouse passed away within two years before the tax year, and you’re entitled with a joint tax refund, and you don’t have child(ren) as dependents, your status is qualifying widow(er).

If the spouse has passed away for more than two years, your filing status could be single or head of household based on the situation of dependent(s).

 

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