If you are married and file a separate return, you will usually pay more tax than if you file a joint return.
To file separate, you report only your own income, exemptions, deductions, and credits. You are disqualified from the student loan interest deduction, the education credits, or the earned income credit. You also cannot take the standard deduction if your spouse itemizes deductions. Different rules apply to people in community property states. You cannot e-file married filing separate if you live in a community property state. You may be able to file as head of household if you had a qualifying person living with you and you lived apart from your spouse during the last 6 months of the year.
Married Persons Who Live Apart
Even if you were not divorced or legally separated during the tax year, you may be able to file as head of household if all five of the following apply:
- You must have lived apart from your spouse for the last 6 months of the tax year. Temporary absences for special circumstances, such as for business, medical care, school, or military service, count as time lived in the home.
- You file a separate return from your spouse.
- You paid over half the cost of keeping up your home for the tax year.
- Your home was the main home of your child, adopted child, stepchild, or foster child for more than half of the tax year (if half or less, see the Exception below).
- You claim this child as your dependent or the child's other parent claims him or her under the rules for Children of Divorced or Separated Parents. If this child is not your dependent, be sure to enter the child's name in the space provided for qualifying person. Your e-filed return cannot be processed without it.
For more information on Head of Household and/or Married Persons Living Apart, please see the 1040 Instructions provided by the IRS.
Please see Publication 555 for married taxpayers who are domiciled in one of the following community property states:
This publication does not address the federal tax treatment of income or property subject to the “community property” election under Alaska state laws.
Community property laws affect how you figure your income on your federal income tax return if you are married, live in a community property state or country, and file separate returns. If you are married, your tax usually will be less if you file married filing jointly than if you file married filing separately. However, sometimes it can be to your advantage to file separate returns. If you and your spouse file separate returns, you have to determine your community income and your separate income.
Community property laws also affect your basis in property you inherit from a married person who lived in a community property state. See Death of spouse , later.
Registered domestic partners.
This publication is also for registered domestic partners who are domiciled in Nevada, Washington, or California. Registered domestic partners in Nevada, Washington, or California generally must follow state community property laws and report half the combined community income of the individual and his or her registered domestic partner.
Registered domestic partners are not married for federal tax purposes. They can use the single filing status, or if they qualify, the head of household filing status.