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For federal purposes, your filing status determines your income tax rate. For Massachusetts purposes, your filing status determines how many personal exemptions you're allowed. For federal purposes, there are 5 filing statuses:
Massachusetts offers all but the qualifying widow(er) with dependent child. Generally, if you claim this status federally, you qualify for head of household for Massachusetts.
There are several different filing status options, and if more than one applies, choose the one that results in the lowest tax for you. Filing status also determines whether you're eligible for certain deductions, exemptions, credits, etc.
Your Massachusetts filing status may differ from that allowed on your federal return.
You can file as single if, at the end of the taxable year, you were:
You can't file as single if:
If you get a judgment from the probate court that you're living apart from your spouse for justifiable cause, you may file a Massachusetts income tax return as single.
If you're legally married as of the last day of the tax year, you can file either jointly or separately. Massachusetts law does not recognize common law marriages. Same-sex couples can file as married, jointly or separately.
You can file as married filing joint if you meet these 2 conditions:
You and your spouse are both responsible for the accuracy of all information entered on a joint return, and both of you must sign.
Taxpayers who are legally married as of the last day of the tax year can file as married filing separately.
If married taxpayers have a Massachusetts residency tax year that begins and ends on different days, they must file married filing separately, assuming each spouse is required to file.
Married filing separate taxpayers may only claim a maximum deduction of $1,500 each, unless a statement from the other spouse is provided, allowing 1 spouse to take more than the $1,500 deduction. The consenting spouse must sign the statement and list:
If you're changing from married filing joint to married filing separately, you and your spouse may file separate returns before the due date of the original return even if you already filed a joint return for the tax year.
If you're changing from married filing separately to married filing joint, pay the total tax shown on the joint return at or before filing the joint return. You will be entitled to a refund if you previously paid more than the corrected amount.
Changing to a joint return after filing a separate return must be made on an abatement/amended return within 3 years after you last filed a separate return. This period is determined without taking time extensions granted to either spouse into account.
Unmarried taxpayers filing as head of household are allowed an exemption that is higher than the exemption allowed for single or married filing separately. Taxpayers must qualify and file as head of household on their federal returns in order to qualify and file head of household on their Massachusetts returns.
You may file as head of household if you meet all of the following criteria:
You're also considered unmarried if you meet all of the following criteria:
A qualifying person includes the following taxpayers:
A dependent parent doesn't have to live with you for you to be able to file as head of household. You must pay more than half the cost of keeping up a home that was the main home for the entire year for the parent. Keeping up a main home means you're paying more than half the cost of keeping a parent in a rest home or home for the elderly.
The noncustodial parent is the parent who either has no custody or has custody of the child for the shorter part of the year.
Even if the noncustodial parent claims the child as a dependent, usually determined in a divorce, separate maintenance or custody decree, the custodial parent can still be eligible to file head of household. Attach the written declaration, Form 8332 - Release of Claim to Exemption for Child of Divorced or Separated Parents, to their tax return that states that the noncustodial parent is claiming the child as a dependent. The custodial parent would still be considered as meeting the qualifications to file head of household.
If your spouse dies during the tax year, and you and your spouse had a Massachusetts taxable year that began on the same day, you may file married filing jointly for the tax year in which your spouse dies.
Since Massachusetts doesn't have a filing status equivalent to the federal qualifying widow(er) with dependent child, you can file as head of household for 2 years after the year your spouse died. If you don't meet the head of household requirements in the 2 subsequent years, you would file as single.
Enter your filing status on either Mass Form 1 or 1-NR/PY, Line 1, and fill in the appropriate oval. Enter your spouse's Social Security number in the appropriate space at the top of the return under taxpayer's Social Security number. If you're married filing joint, both spouses must sign the return.