Marital filing status on form 1040

Determining your marital filing status on form 1040, you have 5 options, which do you choose?

Dr. Arthur Ide reviews criteria for each option to help your identify which would be your best filing option. Although you may meet the requirements for more than one option, Dr. Ide recommends that you work with him or another qualified account to determine which option would yield the greater return since only one can be chosen.

Now that we have put your name(s), address (number and street, city, state, and zip code) and social security number(s) in the top page of Form 1040, we must begin the second half of the form. This is your marital status.

Marital filing status


There are five possibilities.

  1. Single
  2. Married filing jointly
  3. Married filing separately
  4. Head of Household
  5. Qualifying widow/widower

You can only mark one field.

  • Single is for those who are not married and have no dependents.
  • Married filing jointly will be used by people who are married, even if they are separated but living together. Married includes all people who have had a legal wedding. It does include same-sex marriages. Same-sex marriage is treated equal to an opposite sex marriage. It is used for married people who only have one income, but deduct the other spouse who does not work for income.
  • Married filing separately is used by people who are separated by action of a court, not living together, or because it is beneficial for tax purposes because of high incomes.
  • Head of Household is any person who maintains a home and has a dependent who the Head of Household pays
    • more than $3500
    • at least half of all dependent’s expenses.

Gender and age is irrelevant: an 18-year-old who supports parent(s), grandparents, a child or children and is the sole earner is Head of Household. The name of the dependent(s) goes on the line under this entry, but only if someone else is not claiming the same dependent(s).

If you divorced but still live with the former spouse, only one can claim Head of Household. The other divorced spouse must declare single and cannot claim dependents. We will discuss dependents, and exception, in the next essay.

  • Qualifying widow/widower with dependent(s) during the tax year. You can check the box on line 5 and use joint return tax rates for 2015 if all of the following apply.
  • Your spouse died in the current year (example: 2015) or the year in which your taxes are prepared (example: 2016) and you did not remarry before the end of the current year (example: 2015)
  • You have a child or stepchild you can claim as a dependent on line 6c, Form 1040 page 1.  This does not include a foster child.
  • This child lived in your home for all of the tax filing year (example: 2015). If the child did not live with you for the required time, the child would had to have lived in accredited university housing.
  • You paid over half the cost of keeping up your home.
  • You have options if you are a widow or widower. You file a joint return claiming your spouse (opposite sex or same-sex in all 50 states) the year he or she died, or claim the status of widow/widower. The refund is based on the distinction of married or widowed.  File married filing jointly if you have not probated the will, or you ore the deceased had unusually high income. Filing widow/widower can bring a bigger refund if the deceased had modest or no income.

If you have any questions on which status applies to you, please contact me  ( or another qualified account to help you with your filing.  


Thanks again,
Dr. Arthur Ide