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Individual Income Tax Guide

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Page 2: Form 1040, line 3 to line 4

Chapter 1 – Filing Status and Exemptions


Line 3 – Married Filing Separately: Married individuals can file a separate return from their spouses. If you file  a separate return, you generally report only your own income, exemptions, deductions, and credits on your return. In addition, you generally are responsible only for the tax on your own income. However, different rules apply to married individuals in community property states; see the Community Property page for more information.

However, the tax rules are generally not as favorable for married individuals that file separately. For example, if you file a separate return, you cannot take the student loan interest deduction, the tuition and fees deduction, the education credits, or the earned income credit. Also, if your spouse itemizes deductions on his or her separate return, you cannot take the standard deduction on your separate return. Consequently, you will usually pay more tax if you file married filing separately than if you use another filing status for which you qualify.

You are required to enter your spouse's SSN or ITIN on Form 1040 if you file married filing separately. If your spouse does not have and is not required to have an SSN or ITIN, enter “NRA.”

NOTE: You may be able to file as head of household if you had a child living with you and you lived apart from your spouse during the last 6 months of the year. See Married persons who live apart.

Line 4 – Head of Household: Unmarried individuals who provide a home for certain other persons may file as Head of Household. In general, if you qualify to file as head of household, it is more favorable to do so than to file as single. You are considered unmarried for purposes of the head of household filing status if:

Only file as head of household if you are unmarried (or considered unmarried) and either Test 1 or Test 2 below applies.

Test 1: You paid over half the cost of keeping up a home that was the main home for all of the year of your parent whom you can claim as a dependent (except if you claim your parent as a dependent under a multiple support agreement (see the line 6c instructions). The home does not have to be your home (i.e., your parent does not have to live in your home).

Test 2: You paid over half the cost of keeping up a home in which you lived and in which one of the following persons also lived for more than half of the year (if the person lived with you half of the year or less, see Temporary absences).

If the child is not your dependent, enter the child's name on line 4. The IRS will take longer to process your return if you do not enter the name.

Qualifying child: To determine if a person is your qualifying child, see Step 1 of the Dependent and Qualifying Child for Child Tax Credit Worksheet.

Dependent: To determine if a person is your dependent, refer to the  instructions for line 6c.

Temporary absences: The time during temporary absences from the home by you or the other person for special circumstances, such as school, vacation, business, medical care, military service, or detention in a juvenile facility, are included as time lived in the home. Also see Kidnapped Child in the line 6c instructions, if applicable.

If the person for whom you kept up a home was born or died during the year, you can still file as head of household if the home was that person's main home for more than half of the part of the year he or she was alive.

Keeping up a home: For a description of the expenses you include (and expenses you should not include) in the costs of keeping up a home, see page 9 of Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.

If you received money under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or other public assistance programs and used the money to pay part of the cost of keeping up your home, you cannot count it as money you paid. However, you must include the costs paid for with the money in the total cost of keeping up your home when calculating if you paid over half the cost.

Married persons who live apart: Even if you were not divorced or legally separated at the end of the year, you are considered unmarried if:

Adopted child: An adopted child, which includes a child placed lawfully with you for legal adoption, is always treated as your own child.

Foster child: A foster child is any child placed with you by an authorized placement agency or by judgment, decree, or other order of any court of competent jurisdiction.