What To Do When Your IRS Filing Status Changes

The first step in filing your tax return every year is to figure out your IRS filing status. This is a very important part of your tax return because it is used to decide what requirements apply to you, which standard deductions you can use, your eligibility for certain credits, and the correct amount of tax you need to pay. Since it can change over time, you will need to double check the accuracy of your status and categorize yourself properly to avoid a penalty for filing the wrong status. Ready to learn more about amending a tax return to change your filing status? Let’s get started.

Single to Married

You are single until you have an official marriage certificate. Even if you’ve been living with a significant other for years, a certificate is essential for the “Married” IRS filing status. Since marriages can occur at any time throughout the year, you might have already filled out a W-4 for work stating you are single. That’s OK! A W-4 just tells the government how much to withhold from your check each pay period. When it’s time to prepare your yearly tax return, simply choose “Married Filing Jointly” to receive all the right deductions and credits.

Married to Single

This IRS filing status change is similar to what happens when you get married. Your other tax paperwork may say one thing, but what really matters is the IRS filing status you choose at the end of the tax year. Since you lose out on some credits and deductions when your status changes from married to single, it is critical to file correctly or you can be penalized for filing with the wrong status.
If your divorce is complete on or before the final day of the tax year (December 31), you cannot file a joint return. If the new year has started before your divorce is official, you may still file jointly for the previous year. There is a third option here called “Married Filing Separately” for people who are eligible to file together, but choose not to.
As soon as your divorce status is complete, you should also amend your W-4 through your employer.

Head of Household

If you are amending a tax return to change your filing status for a previous year with the head of household status, you can save a lot of money. A head of household must fulfill three basic requirements:

  • You must be single, divorced, or legally separated
  • You lived with a qualifying dependant for more than half the year
  • You paid more than half the cost of keeping a home within the calendar year combining insurance, repairs, utilities, groceries.

A person with a “Head of Household” IRS filing status receives much larger standard deductions. Fill out the IRS Form 1040X to make this change for filed returns that are less than three years old.


Filing as a widower allows you to keep the benefits of a joint tax return for two years after the year that your spouse has passed. To qualify for this status, you must have a qualifying dependant child. The full name of this IRS filing status is “Qualifying Widow(er) with a Dependent Child.”


Most of the time, the penalty for filing the wrong status includes the additional taxes owed plus interest for late payment. If the IRS flags your return, they WILL NOT call you or send an email. You will most likely receive a Notice CP85A (or other Notice type) to notify you that they are looking into your return.

Working with the Best

Tax law is a pretty complicated field where the rules are changing all the time. If you are unsure about any aspect of your return, it’s best to check with a qualified tax lawyer. Request a free consultation with a Delia Law tax attorney today, and take the first step towards filing properly or relieving your debt to the IRS.

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