You can check the box on line 1 if any of the following was true on December 31. You were never married. You were legally separated according to your state law under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance. But if, at the end of the tax year, your divorce was not final (an interlocutory decree), you are considered married and cannot check the box on line 1.
You were widowed before January 1, and did not remarry before the end of the tax year. But if you have a dependent child, you may be able to use the qualifying widow(er) filing status. See the instructions.
You may file Head of Household only if as of December 31, you were unmarried or legally separated (according to your state law) under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance and either below apply to you.
You paid over half the cost of keeping up a home that was the main home for all of the tax year of your parent whom you can claim as a dependent. Your parent did not have to live with you in your home; or
You paid over half the cost of keeping up a home in which you lived and in which one of the following also lived for more than half of the year (if half or less, see Exception below).
Note: You cannot file as Head of Household if your child, parent, or relative described earlier is your dependent under the rules for Person Supported by Two or More Taxpayers.
Married Filing Jointly
You can check the box on line 2 if any of the following apply. You were married at the end of the tax year, even if you did not live with your spouse at the end of the year. Your spouse died in the tax year and you did not remarry in that year. You were married at the end of the tax year, and your spouse died in the following year before filing the tax year return. A married couple filing jointly report their combined income and deduct their combined allowable expenses on one return. They can file a joint return even if only one had income or if they did not live together all year. However, both persons must sign the return. Once you file a joint return, you cannot choose to file separate returns for that year after the due date of the return.
Married Filing Separately
If you are married and file a separate return, you generally report only your own income, exemptions, deductions, and credits. Generally, you are responsible only for the tax on your own income. Different rules apply to people in community property states; see Pub. 555. However, you will usually pay more tax than if you use another filing status for which you qualify. Also, if you file a separate return, you cannot take the student loan interest deduction, the tuition and fees deduction, the education credits, or the earned income credit. You also cannot take the standard deduction if your spouse itemizes deductions. Be sure to enter your spouse's SSN or ITIN on Form 1040. If your spouse does not have and is not required to have an SSN or ITIN, enter “NRA.”
Head of Household
This filing status is for unmarried individuals who provide a home for certain other persons. You are considered unmarried for this purpose if any of the following applies. You were legally separated according to your state law under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance at the end of the tax year. But if, at the end of the tax year, your divorce was not final (an interlocutory decree), you are considered married. You are married but lived apart from your spouse for the last 6 months of the tax year and you meet the other rules under Married persons who live apart. You are married to a nonresident alien at any time during the year and you do not choose to treat him or her as a resident alien.
Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child
You can use this filing status and get joint return tax rates if all of the following apply.
- Your spouse died in one of the previous 2 years and you did not remarry before the end of the tax year.
- You have a child or stepchild whom you claim as a dependent. This does not include a foster child.
- This child lived in your home for all of the tax year. If the child did not live with you for the required time, see Exception to time lived with you on this page.
- You paid over half the cost of keeping up your home.
- You could have filed a joint return with your spouse the year he or she died, even if you did not actually do so.
If your spouse died during this tax year, you cannot file as qualifying widow(er) with dependent child. Instead, you can file as married filing jointly if this is how you previously filed.
Keeping Up a Home. To find out what is included in the cost of keeping up a home, you could visit the IRS web site (Pub. 501). If you used payments you received under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or other public assistance programs to pay part of the cost of keeping up your home, you cannot count them as money you paid. However, you must include them in the total cost of keeping up your home to figure if you paid over half of the cost.
Dependent. To find out if someone is your dependent, please look under the dependent section in the knowledge base.
Exception. You can count temporary absences, such as for school, vacation, or medical care, as time lived in the home. If the person for whom you kept up a home was born or died in the tax year, you may still file as Head of Household as long as the home was that person's main home for the part of the year he or she was alive.