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.