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Can I Amend My Tax Return from Single to Married Filing Separate

Choosing the best filing status is an important part of preparing your income tax return since it determines which tax brackets apply to you. And if you ever make a mistake, such as filing as a single taxpayer when it should be married filing separate, you should amend your tax return on IRS Form 1040X to make the change.

Changing Filing Status

In some tax years, you may be eligible to choose from more than one filing status, but under no circumstances can you ever use one that you don’t qualify for. If you are legally married on Dec. 31 of the tax year, you and your spouse have the option of filing a joint income tax return. However, choosing not to use the married filing jointly status leaves with one other option – married filing separate. Although the married filing separate status is similar to the single filing status, you can’t file as single when you’re married. When you choose the single filing status in error, you may want to amend your tax return to change it to married filing separate.

When to Correct Filing Status

In most cases, the law allows the IRS to audit your tax return up to three years after you file it. Therefore, if you fail to amend your return to change from the single to the married filing separately status, it may be discovered during an IRS audit. And if using the wrong filing status is the reason for underpaying your income taxes, you may end up paying interest and penalties on the additional tax you owe.

Filling Out 1040X Forms

All changes you make to your tax return must be reported on IRS Form 1040X. However, this doesn’t mean you need to prepare an entire income tax return over again; rather, you only update the numbers originally reported on your 1040 that will change because of using the married filing separate status. Since the standard deduction for single and married filing separate taxpayers is the same, it’s likely that you’ll only need to recalculate your tax bill using the married filing separately tax brackets. One thing to note, however, is that you can’t claim the standard deduction under the married filing separate status if your spouse itemizes deductions on their own return.

Itemized Deductions May Change

If you itemized deductions on Schedule A, you need to assess whether you’re still able to itemize when you change to the married filing separate status. When married couples file separate returns, only one return can report itemized deductions. Therefore, if you itemize, your spouse cannot. Moreover, they cannot claim a standard deduction either. Essentially, you can both take separate standard deductions, but if you itemize, your spouse can’t itemize or take the standard deduction.

Reference: Instructions for IRS Form 1040X