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Filing Status

Posted on October 21, 2015 at 11:50 AM

Filing your return with the correct filing status is very important.  Certain filing statuses can cause you to receive credits and deductions you are not entitled to as well as take away some you may be entitled to.  

There are 5 Federal filing statuses and each has their own set of rules to be claimed on an accurate Federal Tax Return.  These statuses are: Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household, and Qualifying Widow/Widower.  Knowing your correct filing status can help save an IRS review of your return as well as provide credits and deductions that can have a financial benefit.

Single:  You are unmarried, divorced, or widowed.  This is a pretty straight forward filing status and any credits and deductions you are entitled to are allowed.  These can include Earned Income Tax Credit, Education Credits, the Student Loan Interest Deduction, etc.

Married Filing Jointly:  You are legally married.  If your spouse passes away throughout the year you can still file a joint return for the year of death with your spouse.  This is also another filing status that allows you to take any credits and deductions you are entitled to.  This filing status does require BOTH spouses to sign the return which says they are both liable for any information pertaining to the return.  

Married Filing Separately:  You are legally married but do not wish to file a joint return with your spouse. This filing status does limit some credits and deductions you are allowed to take on your return.  When filing a separate return the Earned Income Tax Credit, Education Credits, Tuition and Fees Deduction, Student Loan Interest Deduction, Tax Free Exclusion of US Bond Interest, Tax Free Exclusion of Social Security Benefits, Credit for the Elderly and Disabled, and the Child and Dependent Care Credit are all disallowed.  Also, both spouses must use the Standard Deduction or Both must itemize their deductions.  This is true even if one spouse has nothing to itemize, this means that they will have a $0 deduction.  Another down fall to this status is the lower income phase-out for deductible IRA.    Also be aware that this filing status generally pays the most tax of all the filing statuses.

Head of Household:  You are unmarried or can be considered unmarried for tax purposes and provide more than 50% of the household support for you and a dependent.  This filing status does allow for any and all deductions and credits you are legally allowed.  Note, that to be considered unmarried for tax purposes you must have been separated from your spouse for the last 6 months of the year.  IRS ruling states that even 1 day in the last 6 months can cause this filing status to be disallowed and the Married Filing Jointly or the Married Filing Separately status must be used.  There are very few cases where there can be more than 1 Head of Household in a home.  This is not to say that this can't happen but there are many things to look at before this should be considered.  

Qualifying Widow/Widower:  In order to use this filing status you must have been able to file a joint return with your spouse in the year of death.  You didn't have to file a joint return just have been able to.  Then for 2 years after the year of death if you have qualifying children on your return you can use this status to give you a higher standard deduction.  Allo credits and deductions are allowed with this status as well.

Special Filing Status for Married Iowa Residents:  Married couples in Iowa can use a filing status called Married Filing Separate on a Joint Return.  This status is available if you file a Joint Federal return and in most cases increases your refund or lowers your balance due with the state of Iowa.  This is a common mistake for self filers who are not aware of this status and what it can do for their Iowa return.  If you feel that your Iowa return has been completed incorrectly see a tax professional for a free review at Excel Tax and Consulting Services!  

Correct Filing Status determination is a great start to an accurate tax return but won't get you all the way.  Check back for more details on filing accurate tax returns.  As always, Excel Tax and Consulting Services is at your service for all your tax needs!

Categories: Federal Taxes, State Taxes, Taxes

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