IRS Publication #501 contains more details on filing status.
Generally, the filing status you can choose depends on your marital status on the LAST Day of your tax year (that is, December 31).
There are 5 filing status options:
2-Married File Jointly
3-Married File Separately
4-Head of Household
Your filing status is used in determining whether you must file a tax return, your standard deduction, and the correct tax.
It may also be used in determining whether you can claim certain other deductions and or tax credits.
Below are some general rules to consider.
1-If you are UNMARRIED, your filing status is single or, if you meet certain requirements, head of household or qualifying widow(er).
2-If you are LEGALLY MARRIED, your filing status is either married filing jointly, married filing separately, or if you meet certain requirements, head of household.
NOTE: If you have obtained a decree of annulment, this means that no marriage ever existed.
NOTE: An interlocutory decree isn't a final decree of divorce or separate maintenance.
Married File Jointly:
1-You both must include all your income, deductions, and credits on your return.
2-Both spouses must sign and date the tax return.
3-Both you and your spouse may be held responsible, jointly, or individually, for the tax and any interest or penalties on your joint return (joint & individual liability rule).
Married File Separately: PLEASE SEE MY ARTICLE FOR ADDITIONAL DETAILED INFORMATION
1-You should each report only your income, deductions, and tax credits on your individual returns.
2-You are each responsible only for the tax due on your own return (separate liability rule).
3-If one spouse itemizes deductions, the other spouse must also itemize deductions.
Joint Return after Separate Return:
If either you or your spouse (or both of you) file a separate return, you generally can change to a joint return within 3 years from the due date (NOT uncluding extensions) of the separate return or returns. This applies to a return either of you filed claiming married filing separately, single, or head of household.
Separate Returns after Joint Return:
After the due date of your return, you and your spouse CANNOT file separate returns IF you previously filed a joint return.
Exception: A personal representative for a decedent can change from a joint return elected by the surviving spouse to a separate return for the decedent. The personal representative has 1-year form the due date (including extensions) of the joint return to make the change.
NOTE: EACH filing status has specific requirements and rules that you must meet and follow. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Your filing status may also change from one year to the next based on your specific tax situation and circumstances.
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