Tax Filing Status: Definitions

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Tax Filing Status

I have come across a lot of clients who sometimes get confused on tax filing status. Some of them have come to me, with past tax returns, that was filed with wrong filing statuses. Some single people filed as HOH and people who live together have filed Married Filing Jointly. I want to break down the filing status, so it is easy to understand. There is ONLY 4 filing status accepted by the IRS.


This filing status is for people who are:

  • Not legally married, AND
  • Have no dependents, AND
  • Not someone else’s dependent

You may be engaged, in a ‘common law‘ marriage, living with someone, in a relationship for a long time, etc. As long as you have no dependents, someone else is not claiming you on their taxes, and have no marriage license, this is the filing status to file with.

Head of Household (HOH)

This filing status is for people who are:

  • Not legally married, AND
  • Have 1 or more qualifying dependents, AND
  • Pay more than half the expenses of the home

Essentially, this is for people who are single and have dependents. If you are living with someone, both of you cannot be HOH. The person who paid for more than half the expenses of the home is HOH. The other person has to file a separate tax return as single. Even if both of you contribute to the running of the house, since you are not married, only one person files as HOH and the other person files as single.

Married Filing Jointly (MFJ)

This filing status is for people who are:

  • Legally married, AND
  • In agreeance to file jointly, AND

Whether you have a dependent or not, as long as you are legally married, this is the filing status to use.

Married Filing Separate (MFS)

This filing status is for people who are:

  • Legally married
  • Not in agreeance to file jointly, AND

So, if you are legally married, but have decided not to file jointly, this is the only other option available to you. You cannot file as single or HOH. However, because you are filing MFS, you have to split the dependents and expenses. If one spouse itemizes, the other MUST itemize. If one spouse does not itemize, the other CANNOT itemize.


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About Chizoba Morah 122 Articles
Accountant, bookkeeper, tax planner! I have an MBA and have been involved in Accounting and tax preparation for over 10 years. My clients include individuals, businesses of all forms (including corporations) and sizes small to large).

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