What Are the Tax Return Filing Status Options?

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Understanding the basic concept of each filing status can help you select the one that fits your circumstances.

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Below is the filing status definition of each option but it does not contain the entire rule book.


An unmarried taxpayer (or qualifying widower for over two tax years) falls into this IRS filing status. It applies if you are single on December 31st.

Married Filing Jointly

When your state officially recognizes your new marriage (or common law marriage if applicable), the IRS allows you to combine your households onto one tax return. As long as you marry by December 31st, you can use the filing status on that year’s tax return.

Married Filing Separately

You’re probably wondering why anyone would file a separate tax return from their spouse. Some taxpayers prefer to keep their finances separate or may not want to be on the hook for their spouse’s tax liabilities. For those who have student loans, filing separate may help with repayment plan options.

Filing Head of Household

A single taxpayer with at least one qualifying person in their household may be eligible for this tax filing status. You must satisfy several requirements before you can claim it on your annual tax return.

Qualifying Widower

The year of death can remain as married filing jointly, and the next two tax years can have the widower status if you have a dependent child in your household. Thereafter, you claim single unless you remarry.

TIP: Check out the IRS tool to complete a 5-minute online interview.

READ MORE: Do I Need to File a Tax Return?

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DISCLAIMER: Please consult with your accountant, attorney and financial advisor before implementing any information displayed on this website. DIY research does not replace the advice of a licensed professional who has thoroughly reviewed your file.