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Not Sure of your Tax Filing Status? Ask a CPA by Adam Slavin, CPA

Posted on November 21, 2018 by Adam Slavin

When taxpayers prepare their annual returns, they must select a filing status, which determines their eligibility for certain credits and deductions and ultimately influences the amount of federal income tax they owe. For some individuals, the selection is decided for them based on whether or not they are married on the last day of the calendar year. However, under certain circumstances, taxpayers may qualify for more than one filing status. When this occurs, taxpayers may choose the one that results in the lowest tax liabilities they owe to the federal government. Making this determination may require the guidance of professional accountants who can calculate taxpayers’ obligations under each qualifying filing status.

Following are descriptions of the five filing statuses available to taxpayers:

  • Single. Taxpayers are not married or they are divorced or legally separated under state law.
  • Married Filing Jointly. Taxpayers are married couples who file a joint federal tax return.  This filing status also applies to widows whose spouses passed away in the tax year covered for a filed return.
  • Married Filing Separately. Married couples can choose to file two separate tax returns when each spouse wishes to be responsible solely for his or her own tax liabilities. In addition, married couples may choose to file separately when doing so will result in less tax owed than if they file a joint tax return.
  • Head of Household. This status applies to unmarried taxpayers who meet certain rules, such as having paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for themselves and for another qualifying person. It is important for taxpayers to review the rules and make sure they qualify to use this status.
  • Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child. A taxpayer who has a spouse that died during one of the previous two years, and they have a dependent child may qualify for this filing status.

About the Author: Adam Slavin, CPA, is a senior manager with Berkowitz Pollack Brant’s Tax Services practices, where he provides tax planning and consulting services to high-net-worth individuals and closely held business. He can be reached at the CPA firm’s Boca Raton, Fla., office at (561) 361-2000 or via email at


Information contained in this article is subject to change based on further interpretation of tax laws and subsequent guidance issued by the Internal Revenue Service.

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