As a taxpayer, you are required to withhold at least 90%
of your tax burden for the year. You should make sure
you withhold enough to avoid penalties.
Filing Status is an important factor when computing
taxable income under the Federal Income tax in the
United States. Your federal tax filing status defines
the type of tax return form an individual will use.
Filing status is based on marital status and family
situation. A taxpayer will fall into one of five
possible filing status categories: single individual,
married person filing jointly or surviving spouse,
married person filing separately, head of household and
a qualifying widow(er) with dependent children. If a
taxpayer qualifies for more than one filing status, the
taxpayer may choose the most advantageous status.
Your Filing Status
Generally, your marital status on the last day of the
year determines your status for the entire year.
Generally, if you are unmarried, divorced, or legally
separated according to your state law on December 31st,
you must file as a single person for that year because
your marital status at year end applies for the entire
There are some exceptions, such as qualifying as a head
of household or as a surviving spouse, that do not
mandate that the person file as a single taxpayer.
Marital status is decided based on a person’s marital
status at year end (December 31st). If a couple is
married on December 31st of the taxable year, the couple
can file a joint return for the year. However, even if
your first day of legal separation or divorce from your
spouse is December 31st, you cannot file a joint return
for any portion of that year. Certain married
individuals, not legally separated or divorced, may
nonetheless be considered single for purposes of filing
tax returns if they are living apart.
A married couple is not mandated to file jointly.
Married taxpayers may elect to file separate returns.
Furthermore, if you lived apart from your spouse for the
last six months of the year, you may also qualify for
head of household status. If a spouse dies during the
year, the surviving spouse can generally still file a
joint return with his or her deceased spouse for that
year because the taxpayer’s marital status at the time
of his or her spouse’s death applies to the entire
Although the joint return often produces a better
result, in some cases, filing separately can be
beneficial. To accommodate for such circumstances,
married couples may opt to file separately for a taxable
Married couples filing separately does not create an
identical situation to the two parties filing as single.
There are different brackets for unmarried taxpayers
than for married taxpayers who file separately.
Unmarried taxpayers enjoy wider tax brackets, meaning
they pay less tax on the same amount of income. The
rationale behind this differentiation may be in part due
to the economy of scale married couples enjoy by sharing
Certain taxpayers who would otherwise be considered
married, but who file separately, maintain a household
for a child, and whose spouse is not a member of the
household for the last six months of the taxable year
shall be considered unmarried.
To qualify for the head of household filing status you
must be unmarried and paid more than half the cost of a
maintaining a home for yourself and another relative who
lives with you for over half the year and can be claimed
as your dependent. A “dependent” for these purposes
includes grandchild and step-grandchildren, not just
children and stepchildren.
Filing as a head of household can have substantial
financial benefits over filing as a single status
taxpayer. As a head of household, you are entitled to a
more generous tax brackets and larger standard
Note: there are many special rules and exceptions
applicable to head of household filing status.
Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child:
Certain taxpayers who maintain their homes as principal
residences of qualifying dependents and whose spouses
died during either of the last two preceding taxable
years may be considered Surviving Spouses as long as
they have not remarried. If the two year time period has
run out following your spouse’s death, you may still
qualify for head of household status.
Note: There are many special rules and exceptions that
apply to the surviving spouse filing status.