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Filing Status

The filing status you use when you file your return determines the tax that will apply to your taxable income.

Filing status also determines the standard deduction you may claim if you do not itemize deductions and your ability to claim certain other deductions, credits, and exclusions.

When you file your income tax returns, you fall into one of five categories of filing statuses. You file as either single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household or as a qualifying widow or widower.

Your filing status usually depends on whether you are married at the end of the year, and if you are unmarried, whether you maintain a household for a qualifying dependent.

If you are married at the end of the year, you may file jointly or separately. If you lived apart from your spouse for the last half of the year and your child lived with you, you may qualify as an unmarried head of household, which allow you to apply more favorable tax rates than you could as a married person filing separately.

If you are unmarried at the end of the year, your filing status is single you meet the tests for a head of household or qualifying widow(er). Generally, you are a head of household if you pay more than 50% of the household costs for a dependent child or relative who lives with you, or a dependent parent, whether or not he or she lives with you.

You generally are a qualifying widow(er) if you were widowed and you pay more than 50% of the household costs for you and your dependent child. The tax rates for heads of household and for qualifying widow(er)s are more favorable than those for single taxpayers.

The filing status you use determines the tax rates that apply to your taxable income, as well as the standard deduction you may claim if you do not itemize deductions.

Certain other deductions, credits, or exclusions are also affected by filing status. For example, if you are married, certain tax benefits are only allowed if you file jointly, but more deductions overall may be allowed in certain cases if you file separately. The deduction for personal exemptions is phased out for high income taxpayers at levels based upon filing status.


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