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Ask the taxgirl: Almost Married

January 30, 2011 · 6 comments

Taxpayer asks:

I’m getting married in March. Since I will be married when I file my taxes, do I file married?

taxgirl says:

Nope. For federal income tax purposes, your filing status is determined as of the last day of the tax year (so, in this case, December 31, 2010). If you were single on that day, you file as single (or head of household, if applicable) even if you are married when you file your tax return.

Whether you are considered married is determined by state law; the exception to this rule is single sex marriage which is not recognized by the federal government even if legal in your state.

Congratulations on your upcoming marriage and good luck!

Like any good lawyer, I need to add a disclaimer: unfortunately, it is impossible to offer comprehensive tax info over the internet, no matter how well researched or written. And remember, I love my readers but having me bookmarked on your computer doesn’t make you a client: before relying on any information given on this site, contact a tax professional to discuss your particular situation.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Maurice Meier February 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Widower ?

2 L. G. Arnold February 13, 2011 at 8:41 pm

I am in the process of a divorce, but separated. I have four children with my soon to be ex. I lived in Texas but moved to Arkansas and have been here for 6 months. We were still considered married as of Dec. 31, 2010, even though we have been separated to over 6 moths. He has two children and I have two. Would like to know if I should file married/separate or single/head of house hold with two dependents. We are in the process of going to court for a divorce. He makes much more than me and he has not paid anything as far a child support on his own.

3 Kelly February 13, 2011 at 10:10 pm

L.G., I would consult with your divorce attorney. The feds follow state law here and I’m not sure what the rules are for Texas/Arkansas… Some states, like Pennsylvania, have no such thing as formal separation so that wouldn’t matter but it may affect you. You may well be able to file head of household but you should confirm that with your tax preparer.

4 Kelly February 13, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Maurice,
If you’re a widower, you have the option of filing jointly in 2010 for your spouse’s final return (if you qualify and did not remarry in the same year) if your spouse died in 2010.
If you’re a widower and have a dependent child, you may be able to file as a qualifying widower with dependent child for 2 years following the year your spouse died. So, if your spouse died in 2010, you can also file this way for 2011 and 2012.
Otherwise, you can file as single.
Have your tax pro run the numbers for you and see which works out best.

5 Brian O'Connell April 20, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Along those lines, if you’re seeing a new tax preparer and you’re going to file your taxes with your fiancee, make sure the tax preparer knows you’re not married! We went to give our preparer our info. at the same time. We also live together so it probably came across that we were a married couple. Fortunately we mentioned something at the end of the conversation, otherwise she would have prepared our taxes jointly! That would have been a bummer!!

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