Married Taxpayer filing taxes as single taxpayer or head of household

By | February 1, 2014

It is possible to file as a single taxpayer, preferably using head of household rates, even though you are legally married to another person. However, in order to be legally married and file as a single taxpayer, certain rules must be met:


If the following tests are met, you can file as “single” or “head-of-household” even though you’re married. 

  • You maintain as your home a household which for more than half the year is the principal living place of a child of yours whom you can claim as your dependent (or could have claimed as your dependent except that you signed away your right to the exemption to the child’s other parent).
  • Your furnish more than half of the cost of maintaining the home. This includes all house-related costs, plus the cost of food consumed in the home.
  • Your spouse cannot have been a member of the household for the last six months of the year.


“Married Filing Separately” Filing Status

If you pass this test, this means that a taxpayer will not have to use the unfavorable “married filing separately” filing status. Note that if both you and your spouse meet these tests, for example, you have more than one child and each has custody of a child, both of you can qualify to file as unmarried taxpayers. If only one meets the tests, then the other, nonqualifying, spouse will have to file as married filing separately.


Married Taxpayer filing taxes as single taxpayer or head of household

It is important to remember that a married taxpayer can always use the filing status “married filing separately.” However, it is less favorable than the “single” or “head of household” filing statuses because there are not as many advantages to the married filing separately status.

In many cases a couple is “separated” but with no decree of divorce or separate maintenance. In that case, they are still considered to be married in the eyes of state law and tax law because the tax law follows the state laws.  The couple can still file “jointly,” but this may be impractical in some cases depending on the nature of the separation.