Effect of Legal Separation and Divorce on Your Ability to Claim “Single” Tax Status

According to the IRS, in order to be able to claim “single” tax status, you must be “unmarried or legally separated from your spouse under a divorce or separate maintenance decree” on the last day of your tax year, and you do “not qualify for another filing status.” (See IRS Publication 501).

Determining your marital status can be a complex legal matter with numerous exceptions, and exceptions to exceptions. Only a tax professional who reviews the facts of your case may be in position to advise you on your marital status. Here, I will only attempt to sketch the broadest concepts to give you some awareness of the issues.

IRS may consider your marital status as “unmarried” if, on the last day of the relevant tax year, “you were unmarried or legally separated from your spouse under a divorce or separate maintenance decree.” Id. Usually, the state law will determine whether you were legally separated from your spouse on the last day of the relevant tax year. If you were divorced under a final decree by the last day of the year, the IRS will consider you unmarried for the entire year. However, if the divorce was motivated by the desire to file your tax return as unmarried persons, and you and your spouse remarry the next year, the IRS will disregard the divorce for tax purposes and demand that you and your spouse file your tax return(s) as married persons.

If your marriage is annulled (by a court decree which holds that no valid marriage ever existed), the IRS will consider you as “unmarried,” and you must amend your tax returns for all years (within the Statute of Limitations – usually the past three tax years) affected by the annulment.

Keep in mind that, if you are able to claim “single” status, you may also be eligible for a more advantageous tax filing status, such as “head of household” or “qualifying widow(er) with a dependent child.”

Call NOW Sherayzen Law Office to discuss your tax filing status with an attorney!