Confused about Your Tax Filing Status?

Frequent readers know that my blog posts are often inspired by real events. A very real event right now is the 2017 Tax Filing Season Filing. Several recent conversations alerted me to the amount of confusion out there about tax filing status.


There are five filing statuses: Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household, and Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child. Filing status is based on a person’s marital status and other circumstances.


Seven facts determine a taxpayer’s filing status:


  1. Marital status on the last day of the year determines marital status for the entire year.


  1. If more than one filing status applies, choose the one that results in the lower tax bill.


  1. Single filing status generally applies to anyone who is unmarried according to state law.


  1. Married couples can select from two filing status options: Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately, whichever results in a lower combined tax liability. Some deductions and credits are limited using the Married Filing Separately filing status.


  1. Surviving spouses who do not remarry in the year of death can usually file a joint return with their spouse for that year.


  1. Head of Household generally applies to unmarried taxpayers who paid more than half the cost of maintaining a home that includes at least one qualifying person.


  1. Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child can be filed if a spouse died during one of the last two tax years and there is a dependent child, plus some other circumstances.


This is just a glimpse of the rules determining tax filing status. Those “other circumstances” really matter. Talking to a qualified tax professional about filing options can help avoid expensive mistakes. To learn more on your own, the IRS has some pretty good tips at