Filing Taxes When Separated but Married

 

My spouse and I are separated, but not divorced. What should we do about filing taxes when separated but still legally married? What’s the filing status for separated but not divorced?

Filing Taxes When Divorce Isn’t Final

If you are separated, you are still legally married. While you may think you should file separately, your filing status should be either:

If you’re married filing separately, you’ll probably lose some tax benefits. Many tax benefits are available only if married couples use the married filing jointly filing status.

separated but married

However, if you file a joint return, both you and your spouse have joint and several liability.

This means:

  • Both of you are responsible for the taxes, interest and penalties due on the return.
  • You’d both be responsible for any underpayment of tax that might be due later.
  • If one spouse doesn’t pay the tax due, the other might have to.

If you decide to file separately, you might be eligible for head of household filing status. Head of household filing status applies to you when all of these are true:

  • Your spouse didn’t live in your home during the last six months of the year. (Your spouse is considered to have lived in your home even if he or she is temporarily absent but expected to live there at some point in the future.)
  • You paid more than half the costs of keeping up your home for the year.
  • Your home was the main residence for more than half the year for:
    • Your child,
    • Your stepchild, or
    • Your foster child, and
  • You’re able to claim the exemption for the above-mentioned child.

You’ll still meet this test if you can’t claim the exemption only because the noncustodial parent can claim the child under the rules for divorced or separated parents.

The amount of the personal and dependent exemptions is currently zero. But the amount of the exemption isn’t considered when deciding whether someone is a dependent or whether a tax benefit that is based on the exemption is allowed.

Help With Filing Status Questions?

Whether you make an appointment with one of our knowledgeable tax pros or choose one of our online tax filing products, you can count on H&R Block to help.

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