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What’s your filing status?

Have you ever wondered what filing status to use when completing your 1040?

You may be thinking, “I’m married (or not married); what’s to wonder about?  I file ‘married’ (or ‘single’).”

But your choice may not be as simple as you think. The IRS actually offers five statuses to choose from, with “Head of Household” causing the most confusion. The choice you make directly affects your tax computation, so be sure you understand how the status you select affects your tax liability.

To start with, determine whether or not you can file married. So far as the IRS is concerned, your marital status on December 31 is counted as your status for the entire year. So, if you were single all year but celebrated a New Year’s Eve wedding…you’re probably still wondering what happened…but get to file as married.

The only exception to this rule is if you were widowed during the year; for all intents and purposes the IRS considers you as married in the year your spouse dies, and you can choose to file joint or separately. (You will need to select a different filing status the following year unless you remarry.)

Consider the different filing statuses below.  If more than one applies to you, choose whichever requires you to pay the least tax:

Single: This category generally applies if you are unmarried, divorced, or legally separated.

Married Filing Jointly: This status is usually the most advantageous to use for married couples.

Married Filing Separately: Sometimes married couples find filing separately more beneficial; either financially, because of a particular tax-related circumstance, or legally, due to other unique situations (i.e., trusts, business concerns, etc.).

Head of Household: You may be able to select this status if you were not married on December 31 and paid more than half the cost of maintaining a home for yourself and a “qualifying person.”   This person could include your minor or handicapped child, college-age student, or your parent.

To help you determine whether or not the person you live with qualifies, the IRS offers an Interactive Tax Assistant that guides you through a series of questions and then provides you a determination based on your input. (Don’t worry – most the information you provide is general and the program only uses the person’s name to ask questions about him or her.)

Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child: If your spouse died during 2010 or 2011 and you’re raising a dependent child, you may be able to select this status. You must also meet certain other conditions, and, again, the Interactive Tax Assistant can help you determine whether you qualify.

No matter what filing status you select, Patrick & Robinson CPAs is here to help you pick the status most appropriate for you and prepare your return.  Contact us at or 904-396-5400.

Now…about that New Year’s Eve wedding…

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