When you file your income taxes, your filing status determines many factors, such as your standard deduction and your tax rate. Although married taxpayers are generally required to claim either as married filing jointly or married filing separately, some situations might permit you to file as head of household instead. The Internal Revenue Service allows taxpayers who have a qualifying child and live separate from their spouse for the final six months of the year to claim as head of household. If you initially thought you qualified to claim as head of household, but later discovered you were wrong, you should amend your tax return to avoid penalties.
Obtain Form 1040X, the 1040X instructions and the 1040 instructions from the IRS website. You should also grab a copy of your already-filed income tax return.
Enter your personal information in the top portion of the 1040X. Check the box that relates to the tax year you are amending.
Check the box labeled "Married Filing Separately" to inform the IRS that you are changing your filing status.
Use the information from your previous income tax return to complete Column A of the "Income and Deductions" and "Tax Liability and Payments" sections on the form. Column A is designated for the original amounts.
Grab your previous income tax return and locate the standard deduction amounts for that year, listed in the left column of page 2. As of 2012, the standard deduction for married filing separately is $5,800. Locate the line labeled "Itemized Deductions or Standard Deductions," which you can find in the "Income and Deductions" section on Form 1040X, and enter the amount of your standard deduction in Column C. Subtract Column C from Column A and enter the difference in Column B.
Complete Column B and C in the "Income and Deductions" section to determine your taxable income. If you are not changing your exemptions, transfer the numbers listed from Column A to Column C. If you are changing your exemptions, you must also complete Part I and make the proper adjustments.
Locate the tax table on the 1040 instructions to determine your tax. Because your taxable income has changed, your tax will also change. Enter the correct amount in Column C. Subtract Column C from Column A and enter the change in Column B.
Refer to your previous tax return and verify that the adjustments to your taxable income do not affect any credits or deductions. In addition, claiming married filing separately disqualifies you to claim certain credits, such as the child and dependent care credit, tuition and fees deduction, Learning Lifetime or Hope education credits, and the student-loan interest deduction. Depending on what you claimed, you might have to recalculate your credits and complete a supporting form. For more information, refer to the Form 1040 instructions. Complete the "Tax Liability" section to determine your total tax.
Transfer the information from Column A to Column C on the first two lines in "Payments" section. Although you changed your filing status, your income tax withholdings and estimated payments will not change. If you claimed the earned income credit on your previous income tax return, you no longer qualify for the credit because you changed your filing status to married filing jointly. Enter "0" in Column C the line labeled "Earned Income Credit" if this applies.
Refer to your previous tax return to verify whether you claimed any refundable credits, such as the adoption credit, additional child tax credit or the health coverage tax credit. Filing separately might affect the amount of your credit or even disqualify you. For more information, refer to the Form 1040 instructions. Complete any supporting forms to determine the amount of your credit. Enter the correct amount in Column C. Subtract Column A from Column C and enter the change in Column B.
Enter "Amending my filing status" in Part III of Form 1040X.
Complete the "Refund or Amount You Owe" section to determine the amount of your tax. Sign and date Form 1040X. Attach any supporting documents to the form and mail it to the address listed on the 1040X instructions.
- Amending your return is a complicated subject. If you have any problems calculating your credits or tax, you should seek the advice of a tax professional.
Angela M. Wheeland specializes in topics related to taxation, technology, gaming and criminal law. She has contributed to several websites and serves as the lead content editor for a construction-related website. Wheeland holds an Associate of Arts in accounting and criminal justice. She has owned and operated her own income tax-preparation business since 2006.