You can claim the Single filing status on your tax return if you are unmarried or "considered unmarried" on the last day of the year. This includes people who are legally separated or divorced at the end of the year.
Unmarried taxpayers who can claim a dependent should check to see if they qualify for the Head of Household filing status. Head of Household status will provide more tax benefits than claiming single.
The IRS says, "Your filing status is single if, on the last day of the year, you are unmarried or legally separated from your spouse under a divorce or separate maintenance decree, and you do not qualify for another filing status" (from IRS Publication 501, "Single").
Considered UnmarriedThe IRS usually follows state law for determining marital status. You are "considered unmarried" for tax purposes if on the last of the year you are:
- unmarried or
- legally separated from your spouse under a divorce or separate maintenance decree.
Registered Domestic Partners and Civil Unions are Considered UnmarriedSome states are require registered domestic partners and persons in a civil union to file tax returns as if they were married. However, the IRS takes the position that domestic partnerships and civil unions are not the same as marriage. And so persons in a valid domestic partnership or civil union will need to file their federal tax returns using a filing status for unmarried persons: either single or head of household.
In Revenue Ruling 2013-17, the IRS takes the position, "For Federal tax purposes, the terms 'spouse,' 'husband and wife,' 'husband,' and 'wife' do not include individuals (whether of the opposite sex or the same sex) who have entered into a registered domestic partnership, civil union, or other similar formal relationship recognized under state law that is not denominated as a marriage under the laws of that state, and the term 'marriage' does not include such formal relationships."
Furthermore, domestic partners and persons in a civil union who reside in a community property state may need to allocate income and deductions between each partner. This applies to domestic partners in the community property states of Washington, Nevada, and California.