Your marital status on the last day of the year determines your status for the entire year. You have 6 filing status's to choose from which will be described briefly.
If you are unmarried, divorced or legally separated from your spouse under a separate maintenance decree, your filing status is single. This is status 1.
Generally, to qualify for head of household, you must be unmarried and have provided more than 1/2 the cost of keeping up a home that was the principal home for yourself and a relative for more than 6 months of the year. If you are legally married, but have not lived with your spouse at any time during the last 6 months of the tax year, you may also qualify for head of household. This is filing status 3.
If you are married, you and your spouse may file a joint return, separate on the same return, or separate on different returns.
A joint return requires the total income of both spouses to be added together and placed in Column A. This is filing status 2.
Married filing separately on the same form requires the income of one spouse to be placed in column A, and the other spouses income in column B. This is filing status 4.
If you file a completely separate return from your spouse, place your income in column A. This is filing status 5.
If your spouse died during within the prior two tax years, you may be able to file as a qualifying widow or widower. To do this, you must meet all of the following 4 tests:
You were entitled to file a joint return with your spouse in the year he or she died. It does not matter whether you actually filed a joint return;
You did not remarry before the end of the tax year;
You have a child, stepchild, adopted child, or foster child who qualified as your dependent for the year; and
You paid more than 1/2 the cost of keeping up your home, which was the principal home of that child, for the whole year.
If your spouse died during the tax year, you may still file a joint return. The year of death is the last year for which you may file a joint return with your spouse. You may then file as qualifying widow or widower for the next 2 years if you continue to meet all the requirements.