How to choose the right tax return status and why your choice of 5 is REALLY important for getting your refund

VERIFYING the filing status box at the top of your income tax form may seem like the easiest part of the process, but the five choices couldn’t be more different.

Whether taxpayers choose to report single, married jointly, married separately, head of household, or eligible widow(er) on their 1040 tax form, tax reporting status ultimately determines the amount of money tax filers recover.


Taxpayers choose between five status options when filing taxes each yearCredit: Getty

It is essential to know the difference between the five options.

The filing status chosen on an income tax form determines the taxpayer’s filing requirements, standard deduction, correct tax, and eligibility for certain credits, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

“A taxpayer may be able to claim more than one filing status,” the IRS says on its teaching module website.

“Usually the taxpayer will choose the filing status that results in the lowest tax.”


Single people with no dependents enjoy single tax filing status.

If on the last day of the year you are single or legally separated from your spouse by virtue of a divorce or separation decree and do not qualify for another filing status, then you may file an application as single.

Generally, if your income is high and you file as a single person, you may owe less tax.

In many states, it is more difficult for single taxpayers to find themselves in a higher tax bracket than it is for married couples.


On a joint return, married couples report their combined income and deduct the combined allowable expenses.

It’s generally wiser for married couples to file jointly, according to Yahoo! News tax experts.

“Some tax deductions may be waived or lost when a couple files separately,” accountant Jeffrey Wood told the outlet.

“In addition, tax rates are generally higher for individuals filing separately as single or married than for those filing jointly.”


To be eligible for this status, you must be legally married.

If you want to be responsible for your own taxes or if it results in lower tax than filing jointly, then this is the way to go.

Examples of reasons for filing separately could be significant differences in income for each spouse, or a spouse with pre-existing debts.

Also, if you and your spouse are separating or planning to do so, tax experts say it might be a good idea for you to file separately.


The head of household is an unmarried person with dependents.

According to the IRS, a person filing as head of household must meet three conditions.

First, you must be single or considered single on the last day of the year.

You must also have paid at least half the cost to maintain the home for a year.

Finally, an eligible person must have lived with you in this home for more than six months, excluding temporary absences such as school.

An eligible person can be anyone who is dependent on you, usually a minor such as your child, stepson or foster child.

However, if you are caring for your brother, sister, grandparent, parent or another relative and claim them as a dependant, they do not have to live with you.


The first thing you need to know is that there is a filing deadline with this status.

“The year of death is the last year for which you can file jointly with your deceased spouse,” the IRS says.

“You may be eligible to use eligible widow(ies) with dependent child status as your filing status for two years after the year your spouse dies.”

Although this status does not allow you to file a joint return, it allows you to use the tax rates from the joint return and the higher standard deduction amount.

After two years, your widow(er) status becomes head of household or new single unless you have remarried.

If you’re still unsure which status to choose, the agency has an interactive tax wizard tool on its website that uses a questionnaire to help users determine their filing status.

To use the tool, taxpayers will need to have information such as their marital status and year of death of their spouse, if applicable, as well as the percentage of costs that members of the user’s household paid for home maintenance.

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