U.S. Individual Income Tax–Filing Status Requirements

U.S. Individual Income Tax–Filing Status Requirements

When you prepare U.S. Individual Income Tax Return (Form 1040), the first box you need to check is your filing status. Your filing status is used to determine your filing requirements, standard deduction, eligibility for certain credits, and your correct tax rate.


There are five different choices of filing status (The five filing statuses are: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, and qualifying widow(er) with dependent child), but you can only choose one filing status on your tax return. If more than one filing status applies to you, you may choose the one that will result in the lowest amount of tax. Your filing status may change from year to year.


  1. Filing Status Requirements


(1)     Single Filing Status


If on the last day of the year, you are unmarried or legally separated from your spouse under a divorce or separate maintenance decree and you do not qualify for another filing status.


(2)     Married Filing Jointly Filing Status


You are married and both you and your spouse agree to file a joint return. (On a joint return, you report your combined income and deduct your combined allowable expenses.)


(3)     Married Filing Separately Filing Status


You must be married. This method may benefit you if you want to be responsible only for your own tax or if this method results in less tax than a joint return. If you and your spouse do not agree to file a joint return, you may have to use this filing status.


(4)     Head of Household Filing Status


You must meet the following requirements: 1. You are unmarried or considered unmarried on the last day of the year. 2. You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year. 3. A qualifying person lived with you in the home for more than half the year (except temporary absences, such as school). However, your dependent parent does not have to live with you.


(5)     Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child Filing Status


The year of death is the last year for which you can file jointly with your deceased spouse. You may be eligible to use qualifying widow(er) with dependent child as your filing status for two years following the year of death of your spouse. The surviving spouse must pay over half the cost of maintaining a household where a dependent child lives for the whole taxable year.


  1. Standard Deduction


The amount of your standard deduction depends on the filing status you qualify for. In 2020, single taxpayers and married taxpayers who file separate returns can claim a $12,400 standard deduction. Married couples filing jointly and  qualifying widow(er) with dependent child can claim $24,800, and taxpayers filing as “head of household” can claim a standard deduction of $18,650.


  1. Tax Rates (2020)


Tax rate Single filers Married filing jointly and Qualifying widow(er) Married filing separately Head of household
10% $0 to $9,875 $0 to $19,750 $0 to $9,875 $0 to $14,100
12% $9,876 to $40,125 $19,751 to $80,250 $9,876 to $40,125 $14,101 to $53,700
22% $40,126 to $85,525 $80,251 to $171,050 $40,126 to $85,525 $53,701 to $85,500
24% $85,526 to $163,300 $171,051 to $326,600 $85,526 to $163,300 $85,501 to $163,300
32% $163,301 to $207,350 $326,601 to $414,700 $163,301 to $207,350 $163,301 to $207,350
35% $207,351 to $518,400 $414,701 to $622,050 $207,351 to $311,025 $207,351 to $518,400
37% $518,401 or more $622,051 or more $311,026 or more $518,401 or more