What is a filing status?

Last updated:

January 19, 2024

If you are wondering what a filing status is, you are not alone.  Basically, a filing status is a way for you to let the government know about your living situation and what tax rates and benefits you should be able to access.  For the federal government (IRS) there are five different filing statuses: 1) Single; 2) Head of Household; 3) Married Filing Jointly; 4) Married Filing Separately; 5) Qualifying Surviving Spouse


The ‘Single’ filing status is the catchall, if you are not one of the 4 following filing statuses you will file as ‘Single’.  

Head of Household

Filing as Head of Household comes with a couple of advantages including an increased standard deduction and higher income limits for credits.  However, to file as Head of Household you need to meet a number of requirements:

  1. You are not filing a return jointly with anyone else
  2. You must pay for more than half of the cost of keeping up your home
  3. You have a qualifying child or relative that lived with you for more than half the year

Married Filing Jointly

This filing status is for when you are married and choose to file a tax return with your spouse.  All income and deductions are put on the same return.  

Married Filing Separately

When you file as Married Filing Separately, you are married but are choosing to file a separate tax return from your spouse.  This filing status has a lot of drawbacks from being unable to file for the Earned Income Credit and lower income limits.  Check out our resource on filing Married Filing Separately to see if there is another option for you.

Qualifying Surviving Spouse

To file as a Qualifying Surviving Spouse, you will need to meet some requirements:

  1. Your spouse must have died in 2020 or 2021 (if your spouse died in 2022 as long as you did not remarry before the end of 2022, you should file Married Filing Jointly)
  2. You must not have remarried before the end of 2022
  3. You must pay for more than half of the cost of keeping up your home
  4. Your son or daughter must have lived in your home all year and was your dependent

If you meet these requirements you will be able to get similar deductions and benefits as if you were filing Married Filing Jointly.