Posted by GLEN SMITH

Joint Return Test and Filing Status: Here’s What You Need To Know

Joint Return Test and Filing Status: Here’s What You Need To Know

IRS has its own test to determine whether you are qualified to claim another person to be your dependent in terms of taxes. It’s called a Joint Return Test. A Joint Return Test states that if your status is married filing jointly, you can’t be someone else’s dependent. You, therefore, need to know what’s the best status you should use when filing your tax return.

There are different types of filing status allowed by the IRS, it’s up to you to select your own filing status when completing your tax return for as long as you meet the given requirements. Always remember that your status should be based on your situation on December 31st on the year that you are filing.

You probably already have an idea what status you fall under but to avoid confusion and misunderstandings, let’s quickly break down each of them to make sure you chose the correct status.

When To File as Single

Whether you are engaged to someone or you have a boyfriend/girlfriend or a live-in partner, the IRS doesn’t care about it. You are considered single in the eyes of the federal government unless you have been married legally. An individual who’s divorced legally separated and registered domestic partners fall into this status. Just make sure to check your country’s/state’s specific laws and regulation about state filing purposes. 

When to File as Legally Married

The next status is for people who are legally married. But, watch out because there are two options available for married individuals and it’s depending on their agreement. A lot of American couples prefer to file jointly because it gives them the chance to decrease what they owe as a couple. When you file jointly, you are able to take advantage of some tax benefits such as education credits and the earned income credit which is not available to married taxpayers who file separately.

You have the option to file jointly if you get married before the end of the taxable year. In other words, married filing jointly will help you pay much lower taxes. Although this is not always the case.

When to File Married Filing Separately

When you got married, it doesn’t literally mean that you don’t have the option to file your tax separately from your spouse. You can file for Married Filing Separately status. This status fits for a married couple who are legally married but are living separately, and also for married couples who have different expenses. They will usually receive a much bigger refund if they file separately. There are also some couples who still prefer to have some privacy even if they’re already married in terms of tax and finances. 

When to File as Head of Household

You may also qualify for a Head of Household status. You may qualify for this status if you are unmarried but has one qualifying dependent. Qualifying dependents could either be his/her child, grandchild, stepchild, niece, nephew or anyone else as long as he/she is under 19 ( 24 if a full-time student), should be living over half a year with you and you are the one who is paying for half of the cost of the living expenses of your dependent. Qualified dependents don’t fall for children only but also for adults if you support them financially like your parents and adult children. This status is maybe a little complicated but it has a number of benefits, and it has a larger standard deduction and favorable tax bracket than single filers have. 

When to File as Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Children

Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Children fits for people whose wife or husband died. But, same as the above-mentioned status, it has its own requirements also. If you were married to a spouse who died in 2014 or 2015 and you have at least one dependent, then you are eligible to file as a Qualifying Widow(er) on the next year’s income tax return. You will not be able to use this status if you remarry, the dependent must be either your son, daughter, step- and even legally adopted child. However, you may be exempted for a joint return test if you fall under specific situations. If both of these things apply to you, then you can still qualify as a dependent:

  • You want to claim a refund for tax withheld so you or your spouse file a joint return.
  • You or your spouse don't have to pay taxes if any of you filed separate returns.

You can’t appoint someone to be your dependent because you are forced to do so, you are close or just because you like it. That’s why there is a test implemented which is called Dependent Taxpayer Test. Through this test, we can determine either we can appoint that person as your dependent or not.

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