How to File Taxes During Marriage Separation

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Separation imposes special requirements on tax filiing.
Separation imposes special requirements on tax filiing. (Image: broken pencil #2 (broken relation) image by stassad from Fotolia.com)

Divorce and separation is a difficult time for families. It is made more difficult as tax season comes around. Tax filers who separate have a special set of obstacles to overcome. There are certain rules that apply to get the best refund and to not run afoul of the law. When filing taxes during marriage separation, the filer should gather a few bits of information about who has paid more than half of the household's upkeep for the past tax year.

Things You'll Need

  • Internet connection
  • Personal financial documents
  • Tax preparer

Know the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requirements. The IRS says tax filers who are separated but not divorced have special needs during tax filing season. Since there is no divorce decree, the government looks upon these filers as still married couples. If one of the filers has been living outside the house for at least six months, and the filer remaining in the household has paid half of household upkeep for at least six months, and has claimed dependents in the home, he or she may file "head of household" status. The other filer must file as married filing separate. The advantage of filing head of household lies in reducing the amount of taxable income for the tax filer. A head of household tax status enjoys a higher standard deduction than the married filing separate status or single status. The standard deduction for single and married filing separate filers is half of the standard deduction as married filing joint filers.

In order to file as head of household, you must pay more than half of the cost of keeping up a home for at least the last six months of the year and have a dependent. The cost of keeping up a home includes rent, mortgage interest, real estate taxes, insurance on the home, repairs, utilities, and food eaten in the home. This does not include the cost of clothing, education, medical treatment, vacations, life insurance, or transportation for any member of the household.

If a filer obtained a final decree of divorce by the end of the year, he or she must file as single or head of household. He or she cannot take the former spouse's exemption. This rule applies even if you provided all of your former spouse's support.

Adhere to IRS rulings. If you were considered married for part of the year and lived in a community property state, special rules may apply in determining filing status and income to report.

Go to the official IRS website and download the appropriate forms and instruction booklets. Truthfully determining the filing status is the biggest obstacle. Once that has been established, filing taxes with or without a tax preparer is standard. Filing state taxes requires each filer to observe his or her state's tax laws, as state laws vary widely.

Tips & Warnings

  • Improper tax preparation can lead to costly consequences. Please consult a tax preparer.

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