Some taxpayers are eligible for more than one filing status. As they get ready for the upcoming filing season, taxpayers should carefully review their options to pick the filing status that makes the most sense for them. Those who are only eligible for one filing status should be sure to review their situation after a major life event like marriage or divorce.

Filing status is important because it affects:

  • If the taxpayer is required to file a federal tax return
  • The type of return form the taxpayer needs to use
  • If they should file a return to receive a refund
  • Their standard deduction amount
  • If they can claim certain credits
  • The amount of tax they should pay

Here are the five filing statuses:

  • Single. Normally this status is for taxpayers who are unmarried, divorced or legally separated under a divorce or separate maintenance decree governed by state law.
  • Married filing jointly. If a taxpayer is married, they can file a joint tax return with their spouse. When a spouse passes away, the widowed spouse can usually file a joint return for that year.
  • Married filing separately. Married couples can choose to file separate tax returns. When doing so, it may result in less tax owed than filing a joint tax return.
  • Head of household. Unmarried taxpayers may be able to file using this status, but special rules apply. For example, the taxpayer must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for themselves and a qualifying person living in the home for half the year. 
  • Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child. This status may apply to a taxpayer if their spouse died during one of the previous two years and they have a dependent child. Other conditions also apply.

What Is My Filing Status?
If taxpayers are confused about their filing status, they can use the What Is My Filing Status? tool Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS.gov. This tool can also help taxpayers who are eligible for more than one status find the one that will result in the lowest amount of tax.