What are my income tax filing status options?

Washingtonians should understand their tax filing status options as they can make a difference in the amount of income tax they may owe.

While summer is not the time that many Washingtonians think about income tax, it is a good time to step back and learn a bit more about this topic. Researching things partway through the year can help people be more prepared when it comes time to file their tax returns the following spring.

One of the many topics taxpayers may wonder about is tax filing status given that there are several from which to choose. The Internal Revenue Service notes that some people may actually qualify for more than one filing status so understanding each one is important. In many cases, one status offers tax benefits over another.

Options for married people

As explained by Bankrate, married people generally have two options when it comes to their tax filing status. Perhaps the most common status chosen for wedded couples is married filing joint . This classification often provides the best in terms of tax deductions. In addition to assessing both parties' incomes when determining tax liability, it is assumed that both partners will be responsible for paying any taxes due. This is so even if one spouse did not earn any of the income reported.

While married filing separate generally results in a higher tax liability than married filing separate, there may be unique cases where this is not so. This might include a situation in which one person experienced significant out-of-pocket medical expenses. The deductions allowed a separate filer may be great enough to warrant this type of filing.

Options for unmarried people

Unmarried people may be able to file as single or as head of household. The latter is only possible for those taxpayers who also had dependents living with them for most of the year. These taxpayers should also be able to display that they were financially responsible for the majority of the household expenses. Unmarried persons who do not meet these criteria should file as single.

Options for widowed people

For the tax year in which a spouse dies, the widow or widower should file as married filing joint or perhaps married filing separate. After that, if the surviving spouse is caring for minor, dependent children, a special tax filing status may be used for the following two tax years. A qualifying widow or widower with dependent children status is used here. Apart from that, widows and widowers will file as single or head of household unless they remarry.

Getting help when choosing a tax filing status

There are often many gray areas when it comes to deciding which tax filing status is most advantageous. Washington residents should talk to a tax lawyer if they are unsure of how to proceed when it comes to federal income taxes. Getting proper information is an important part of making good decisions.