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IRS Rules for Married Filing Separately

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has five filing statuses: single, married filing joint return, married filing separately, head of household and qualified widow(er) with dependent child. Married individuals can file under the status married filing joint return or married filing separate return. The IRS recommends you enter your information into the tax worksheet using both statuses to decide which status is more beneficial for your family. If you and your spouse do not agree on filing a joint return, you must claim married filing separately status.


If you choose to file separately from your spouse you can use the 1040 or 1040-A form. Select option three under the filing status and use the married filing separately column on the tax worksheet.

Spouse's Information

You must enter your spouse's full name and Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) on your return, the only exception is if your spouse is not required to have a SSN or ITIN.

Special Rules

When you file separately from your spouse, you are subject to certain special tax rules. Your alternative minimum tax exemption will be half of the amount it would be if you were filing jointly. In most cases, you cannot claim a dependent or childcare credit. You are not able to take the earned income or adoption credit. The education and school-related credits are not available to you. Your child tax credit, itemized deductions, standard deductions, retirement savings credit, and personal exemptions are half of what would you can claim on a joint return. In addition, you may be required to include more Social Security or disability income, your capital-loss deduction is limited to $1,500, and you are only able to claim $4,000 of the first-time homebuyer's credit.

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