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If I'm married, must I file as married?

If you were married on the last day of the year, you must file as either married filing jointly or married filing separately. However, if you can meet the following rules, you might be able to file as head of household:

  • You do not file a joint return.
  • You paid more than half the cost of keeping up your home for the tax year.
  • Your spouse did not live with you for even one day in your home during the last six months of the tax year. The spouse is considered as living in the home even if temporarily absent because of special circumstances, such as illness, business, incarceration, etc.
  • Your home was the main home of your child, stepchild, adopted child, or foster child for more than half the year.
  • You must be able to claim the child as your dependent, unless you cannot claim the child only because the non-custodial parent is allowed to claim the child as their dependent.

See IRS Publication 501 for full details on filing status or use the IRS Interactive Tax Assistant to determine your best filing status.