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Understanding Filing Statuses for Taxes

Filing status is something that determines the tax return forms a taxpayer must use when filing their taxes and is tied to the taxpayer’s marital status. Filing status is determined by your filing requirements, standard deductions, eligibility for certain credits, and your correct tax. This is an important part of your tax return because it helps to determine the tax bracket and the amount that must be paid. There are many different things that define filing your status, to name a few, your marital status, the number of children you have, occupation, and many other factors. There are five filing status categories, and they are as follows: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, and qualifying widow(er) with dependent children.

What is “Single” filing status?

A single filer is a taxpayer that is unmarried, divorced, a registered domestic partner, or legally separated according to state law as of the last day of the tax year. Single filers have lower income limits for most exemptions. See below for the 2022 and 2023 tax brackets for single filers:

Federal Income Tax Rate Income Range for Single Taxpayer for 2022Income Range for Single Taxpayer for 2023
  32%$170,051-$215,950$182,101- $231,250
  35%$215,951-$539,900$231,251 – $578,125
  37%Over $539,900Over $578,125
  Standard Deduction$12,950$13,850

A single filing status can also be considered if you are still married if you lived separately from your spouse for the last six months of the tax year and paid more than half the cost of keeping up a house for yourself and a qualifying dependent or child. 

What is “Married Person Filing Jointly or Surviving Spouse” filing status?

A married person filing jointly or surviving spouse is defined as an individual that is married by the end of the tax year and can file a tax return jointly with their spouse. When you use the married filing jointly status, couples record their respective incomes, exemptions, and deductions on the same tax return which usually provides a bigger tax refund or a lower tax liability. See below for the 2022 and 2023 tax brackets for married filing jointly filers:

Federal Income Tax RateIncome Range for Taxpayer who is Married Filing Jointly in 2022Income Range for Taxpayers Who Are Married Filing Jointly in 2023
  37%Over $647,850Over $693,751
  Standard Deduction$25,900$27,700

Married filing jointly is usually best if only one spouse has a significant income, but if both taxpayers work and the income and itemized deductions are large and very unequal there may be more of an advantage to file separately. 

What is “Head of Household” filing status?

Head of household is a single or unmarried taxpayer that pays at least 50% if the costs of supporting their household and lives with other qualifying family members that they provide support for more than half the year. This includes more than half of the total household bills, as well as rent or mortgage, utility bills, insurance, property taxes, groceries, repairs, and other common household expenses. See below for the 2022 and 2023 tax brackets for head of household filers:

Federal Income Tax RateIncome Range for Taxpayer filing as the Head of Household for 2022Income Range for Taxpayer filing as Head of Household for 2023
  37%Over $539,900Over $578,101
  Standard Deduction$19,400$20,800

What is a Qualifying family member?

A qualifying family member is a dependent child, grandchild, sibling, grandparent, or anyone else you can claim as an exemption. This can be defined as a member of the household is a dependent relative or non-relative that resided in a taxpayer’s domicile. To be an eligible member of the household, certain qualifications must be met. A qualifying family member is someone that is not your qualifying child and must be related to you. They also must have lived with you all year as a member of your household, have gross income for the year less than $4,400, and you must have provided more than half of the person’s total support for the year.

What is “Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child” filing status?

In the event that a spouse dies during the tax year, the surviving spouse can use a joint filing status. For the two years following the year of a spouse’s death, the surviving spouse can file as a qualifying surviving spouse. This allows the surviving spouse to maintain the standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly for two years after the spouse’s death. The taxpayer cannot remarry for two years and must claim a qualifying dependent. 

What are the dependent requirements?

To be qualified as a dependent, there are a number of tests to be met. The dependent must meet the relationship test, so they must be your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, or a descendant (grandchild), brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or a descendant of any of them (niece or nephew). The child must meet the following requirements be under age 19 at the end of the year and younger than the taxpayer, a student under age 24 at the end of the year and younger than the taxpayer, permanently and totally disabled at any time during the year regardless of age. The child also must have lived with you for more than half of the year, not provided more than half of their own support for the year and must not be filing a joint return for the year.

What is considered total support to claim a dependent?

Total support is defined as more than half of a person’s total support for the entire tax year. This can include food, clothing, shelter, education, medical and dental care, recreation, and transportation. 

How does claiming a dependent benefit you?

By claiming a dependent there are certain deductions that help to lower your taxable income. For 2022 there is a child tax credit which can reduce your taxes by $2,000 per qualifying child age 16 or younger. Once your child is over the age of 16 you can receive an additional credit up to $500 which is the credit for other dependents. There is also another tax credit if your child is pursuing a degree at a school, you have the ability to receive the American Opportunity Credit which can save up to $2,500 in tax for education expense per each eligible student.  Similar to the American Opportunity Credit there is a Lifetime Learning Credit if you are not eligible for the American Opportunity Credit. The Lifetime Learning Credit is a credit for up to $2,000 per tax year but starts phasing out when your modified adjusted gross income exceeds $80,000 for single filers and $160,000 for married filing jointly filers. This is a non-refundable credit and is calculated by taking 20% of up to the first $10,000 in qualified education expenses for qualifying students. You can also receive a student loan interest deduction for any of your dependents of up to $2,500 for qualifying student loan interest paid.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for tax, legal, or accounting advice. If you have any questions about tax planning strategies, please do not hesitate to contact us at Lear & Pannepacker.