US Federal Tax Status: Married Filing Separately

US Federal Tax Status: Married Filing Separately - What does that mean? Find out at

If you are married usually the both of you benefit the most when Filing Married Jointly. But if you and your spouse work together, or one of you had high medical, business or other expenses it could reduce your combined tax liability by filing separate returns. Choose the filing status that gives the lowest tax.

If you choose married filing separately you should be aware that your tax rate is higher and exemption and deduction amounts are lower. If your spouse itemizes deductions you cannot claim the standard deduction. You cannot take in most cases credit for child and dependent expenses, exclusion or credit for adoption expenses. You never can take earned income credit, education credits or deductions for student loan interest, exclude interest income from U.S. saving bonds for higher education expenses or claim credit for the elderly or disabled.

If you choose married filing separately as you filing status you fill out your own income, exemptions, credits and deductions. You can claim an exemption for your spouse only if he or she had no gross income and was not the dependent of another person.

You are considered to be married if:

  • you are married and live together with your spouse as husband and wife
  • you live together in a common law marriage that is recognized in the state where you live now or in the state where your common law marriage began
  • you are married but live apart, without legal separation under a decree, divorce or separate maintenance
  • you are separated under an interlocutory decree of divorce, which is not final
  • your spouse died in this tax year and you did not remarry this tax year, the next two years you may be entitled to file Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child

For the tax year 2013 and going forward, same-sex spouses generally must file their federal tax returns using a married filing separately or jointly filing status. This federal ruling is also applicable for married same-sex couples living in a state that does not recognize their marriage. Read more about the ruling at IRS Answers to frequently asked questions about same-sex married couples.