If you are a United States citizen or resident alien, having to file a tax return depends on many requirements. Not owing any taxes does not necessarily exclude you from having to file a federal income tax return.
However, knowing your filing status and filing under the correct status can reduce the amount of taxes you are required to pay. Aside from your tax bracket, your filing status is the largest indicator of how large of a tax credit you will receive and what percentage of taxes you will owe.
When filing your federal tax return, it is important to know your filing status. A person's filing status determines the amount of your standard deduction, how much you owe in taxes and any refund you may be eligible for. When ascertaining your filing status there are two things to consider: which filing status will give you the lowest amount of taxes owed, and your marital status. Your marital status on the last day of the year is the status you claim for that year's tax return.
There are five filing options. A single status generally applies to anyone who is unmarried, divorced or legally separated according to the states law of whichever state you reside in. Married Filing Jointly is a married couple that files a return together. If your husband or wife died during the year, you can still file a joint return with your spouse for the year he or she died. Married Filing Separately is a married couple that elects to file their returns separately. Head of Household is a status that usually applies to taxpayers who are unmarried.
Additionally, you must have paid more than half the cost of keeping a home for you and a qualifying dependent - usually a child or relative - to qualify for a Head of Household filing status. A Qualifying Widow or Widower with Dependent Child can be claimed for up to two years after your spouse has died if you have a dependent child. If your spouse died this year, you can claim Married Filing Jointly; the Widow or Widower with Dependent Child status is for the proceeding two years following his or her death. There are ways to determine if you have a qualifying dependent child or other relative; be sure to research the matter on irs.gov before proceeding.