If you’re not sure which filing status to use, the Internal Revenue Service has come out with a helpful guide. Why is choosing the correct status important? Picking the right filing status will impact how much you’ll have to pay when it comes to your taxes. You don’t want to overpay, so it’s best to make sure you get it right.
Take special note that your marital status on December 31 is your status for the entire year. Your best bet is to choose the filing status that will result in the lowest tax if more than one filing status applies to you.
The IRS put together a list of five filing statuses to help you choose:
1. Single. This status normally applies if you aren’t married or are divorced or legally separated under state law.
2. Married Filing Jointly. A married couple can file one tax return together. If your spouse died last year, you usually can still file a joint return for that year.
3. Married Filing Separately. A married couple can choose to file two separate tax returns instead of one joint return. This status may be to your benefit if it results in less tax. You can also use it if you want to be responsible only for your own tax.
4. Head of Household. This status normally applies if you are not married. You also must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for yourself and a qualifying person. Some people choose this status by mistake. Be sure to check all the rules before you file.
5. Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child. If your spouse died during 2011 or 2012 and you have a dependent child, this status may apply. Certain other conditions also apply.
IRS e-file will help you choose the right filing status. You can also find the rules on this topic in Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information. It’s available on IRS.gov or by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).