There are five different filing statuses that you can use when completing your tax return. The requirements are different for each, and your ability to claim certain deductions changes with each one, so you need to examine each option carefully.
Single – You can use this status if you aren’t married or you are separated under the law through divorce or separation decree as of December 31st.
Married Filing Jointly – if you are legally married on December 31st, you and your spouse can opt to file one return by using this status. Joint tax returns include the incomes, deductions, and credits of both spouses in a single return.
Married Filing Separately – Whether you are married or legally separated on the final day of the tax year, your spouse can file a separate return from your own. It’s important to note that separate returns hold each spouse accountable for their portion of income, exemptions, deductions and credits. Also, spouses have to use the same deduction method: either standard or itemized. If one spouse files Schedule A and itemizes deductions, the other must also itemize regardless of which method has the greater benefit. Couples who file separately aren’t able to claim certain deductions or credits, including education, childcare, and earned income credits, or student loan interest deductions.
Head of Household – This status applies to taxpayers who are unmarried as of December 31st, and have paid for more than half of the expenses related to keeping a home throughout the year for yourself and a qualifying dependent.
Qualifying Widow(er) – If your spouse has passed away, and you have a dependent, you can use this status to file a tax return for the 2 years after your spouse has died. There are other requirements you must meet in order to use this status. The year that your spouse died, you were eligible to use Married Filing Jointly for your tax return. You have not remarried by the end of 2014, if your spouse passed away in 2012 or later. You have a dependent that qualifies as an exemption, and has lived with you the entire year. You were responsible for more than 50% of the expenses related to maintaining your home for the year.