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To elect your filing status on IRS Form 1040A or Form 1040, you simply check the box in front of the status that applies to you. If you choose "married filing separate returns," you'll need to enter your spouse's full name and Social Security number at the top of the form directly below your own. This is required so that the IRS can match up your two forms in case of an audit. If you choose "head of household" status, you must enter on Line 4 the name of your qualifying person if it is a child who's not your dependent.
Taxpayers who file Form 1040EZ can only use "single" or "married filing jointly." If they are married, they must write both spouses' names and Social Security numbers on the return, which automatically places them in the "joint filers" category; otherwise they will be considered single.
While actually electing your filing status on your tax return couldn't be simpler, knowing which status to claim is not always so easy. The primary factor in determining your status is whether you are married or not. If you are married, you and your spouse must decide whether to file jointly or separately. In some cases, recently widowed persons can be treated as married, and some married people who are not living with their spouses can be treated as single.
Generally, if you are not currently married, your filing status is considered "single," unless you can be classified as a "head of household." You may qualify as head of household if you meet the requirements for supporting at least one other person, or as "single" if you don't. Heads of households use a significantly lower tax rate than singles for the same level of income, but must file IRS Form 1040A or 1040 to claim this status.
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