One of the first things you do when filing your federal income tax return is to check the box at the top indicating your filing status.
There are five options: single, head of household, married declaring jointly, married declaring separately and eligible widower (s) with dependent child.
For the most part, this is a fairly straightforward question. Indeed, for federal tax status, marital status is determined by state law from the last day of the calendar year (December 31). There is no math, no crazy formulas: just a date to consider.
If you are not married on the last day of the year, either because you were never legally married, or because you were legally separated or divorced, depending on the laws of your state, you can file the case in as a single person.
Heads of families (HOH)
If you are not married and provide more than half of the household expenses for an eligible child or dependent, you may be able to apply as a head of household. HOH can be tricky because you can also use this status if you are considered single under IRS rules; for a taxpayer who is still married, this means that you lived apart from your spouse during the last six months of the tax year and filed a separate return (you must always provide more than half of the household expenses for a child or eligible dependent).
If you are married on December 31, you are considered married for the year: it does not matter if you got married on the same day. It doesn’t matter if you live together or what your name is: Married is married.
As a married person, you can file as jointly filed marriage (MFJ) Where Separate marriage deposit (MFS). Despite its hostile sounding name, MFS has nothing to do with the state of your marriage. It is simply a tax choice where married taxpayers choose to file separate returns. This can happen if you don’t want to be responsible for your spouse’s share of tax, or because filing separately can result in a reduction in total tax. You can also file a claim as an MFS to avoid offsetting your repayment if your spouse has unpaid debts like child support arrears or past due student loans.
Eligible widower (s) with dependent child
If your spouse died during the year, you are considered married for the entire year, unless you remarry before the end of the tax year. If you remarry, you will declare that you are married to your new spouse, and the filing status of your deceased spouse will be married separately for the year. If, however, you do not remarry in the next two years and you have an eligible child or stepson for whom you have provided more than half of the household expenses, you may be able to apply by as an eligible widower or widower.
Correct Your Mistakes
But what if you make a mistake? Or, what if, as is increasingly the case in 2021, you want to use a different deposit status to qualify for a stimulus check or tax credit related to Covid-19 relief, but you’ve already filed your tax return? Before you file another return, here’s what you need to know.
First things first: if you need to change your tax return, don’t file a second tax return. This would significantly slow down the processing and could signal your return for review.
If you need to correct your tax return, you must complete Form 1040X, Amended U.S. personal income tax return. But you’ll want to act relatively quickly. For federal income tax purposes, you have three years from the due date of the original return to file your amended return.
To speed things up, you may be able to file your amended return electronically. Traditionally, amended returns were always filed on paper, but you can now electronically edit 2019 and 2020 returns that were originally filed electronically. Unfortunately, the 2019 and 2020 returns originally filed on paper must be amended on paper.
Change your status
Your amended return should reflect your filing status on the last day of the calendar year. Do not file an amended return because your status has changed after calendar year: if you were divorced on January 1, 2021, you are still considered married for 2020.
You’ll also want to pay attention to income, deductions, and other information reported on the return. Your amended return must conform to the filing status you choose. For example, you cannot claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) if your filing status is MFS even though you were already eligible.
If you simply correct a mistake – for example, you felt like you were single but you weren’t really – you will tick the correct box and report your tax information appropriately. Offer a brief explanation of the change in Part III of the return.
Most of the time, change is easy. However, while you can switch from MFS to MFJ without a problem, you cannot switch from MFJ to MFS after the due date of the original return. Any change in filing status must be made before the filing deadline.
After you’ve checked the correct box, you’ll want to confirm that you’ve reported income and other tax items, like deductions and credits, that are attributable to you.
Lateral bar : You may be able to file a replacement return to effect the change from MFJ to MFS before the due date. If you are not sure what this means, consult a tax professional.
The big exception
It works for everyone, right? Not exactly. If you live in a community property state (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin) and file MFS, you must report half of all community income and all of your income. individual in your return. . This means that changing MFS will not always result in a reduction in the tax bill. So check the numbers before taking a step.
State tax returns
And since we’re talking about where you live, don’t forget about state income tax returns: a change to your federal return can affect your state taxes.
Refunds, payments and status
You can check the status of your amended return filed on paper or electronically by using the Where is my amended return? on the IRS website or call 1-866-464-2050. Give it time. The IRS says to wait three weeks after filing your amended return to verify a receipt, but amended returns can take up to 16 weeks (not a typo) to process.
If your change to your return results in a payment due, you’ll want to pay as quickly as possible since interest and penalties start accruing on the return due date (not the filing date).
If changing your return results in a refund – and let’s face it, that’s usually the goal – you’ll receive a paper check. A refund for an amended return cannot be deposited directly. If you have a refund check from your original return, you can cash the original refund check, if applicable, pending a refund or further adjustment.
Think before you deposit
In a hectic filing season, you might be tempted to file now and change later. While you can change a return, intentionally making a mistake to gain a tax advantage can backfire. For example, if you divorce for the sole purpose of reporting a single person and remarry the following tax year, you and your spouse must report both years as married persons. The best strategy is to consider your options and make the best choice when making your deposit, and only change them when necessary.