How the IRS Determines Marital Status for Tax Purposes

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) uses various methods to determine the marital status of taxpayers for tax purposes. This information is crucial because it affects tax filing requirements, tax rates, and eligibility for certain tax benefits.

Methods Used by the IRS

1. Tax Return Information

The primary method the IRS uses to determine marital status is the information provided on tax returns. Taxpayers must indicate their filing status on their tax returns, which can be:

  • Single
  • Married filing jointly
  • Married filing separately
  • Head of household
  • Qualifying widow(er)

2. Social Security Administration (SSA) Records

The IRS may also cross-check the marriage information on tax returns against SSA records. The SSA maintains records of marriage and divorce, which can be used to verify the taxpayer’s marital status.

3. State Records

In some cases, the IRS may request marriage or divorce records from state agencies. This is more likely to occur if there is a discrepancy between the information provided on the tax return and the SSA records.

4. Other Sources

The IRS may also use other sources to determine marital status, such as:

  • Court records
  • Public records
  • Information from third parties

Consequences of Incorrect Marital Status

Filing with an incorrect marital status can have several consequences, including:

  • Incorrect tax liability
  • Ineligibility for certain tax benefits
  • Penalties and interest charges

How to Avoid Errors

To avoid errors related to marital status on tax returns, taxpayers should:

  • Ensure that the filing status selected on the tax return accurately reflects their marital status as of the last day of the tax year.
  • Provide accurate and consistent information across all tax-related documents, including the tax return, W-4 form, and any correspondence with the IRS.
  • Notify the IRS promptly of any changes in marital status that occur during the tax year.

The IRS uses multiple methods to determine the marital status of taxpayers for tax purposes. Taxpayers should ensure that the information provided on their tax returns is accurate and consistent to avoid potential errors and ensure they receive the correct tax treatment.

Should You File Married Jointly in 2023? Tax Expert Weighs In


What happens if I file single but I’m married?

Keep in mind that married filing separately and filing as a single unmarried person are two different things. In other words, you can’t choose the single filing status if you’re married. In some situations, the tax brackets are different for single filers and married couples filing separately.

How would the IRS know I am married?

The IRS doesn’t typically check marriage records. They trust taxpayers to be honest. If both people claim to be married to each other, the IRS wouldn’t have reason to question it. If the couple files returns saying they are each married to different people, the IRS may investigate.

How does the government know if you are married?

Marriage records are public records, and government officials can access them for a variety of reasons. For example, a government official might need to verify your marital status for immigration purposes, to determine your eligibility for certain benefits, or to investigate a crime.

Can anyone check if you are married?

You can access vital records, including marriage records, online or in person at the courthouse of the city where the marriage was likely to occur, and you can usually see a copy for free or for a small fee. Make sure to look for divorce records too: just because they got married before doesn’t mean they still are.

Should I report my marital status to the IRS?

Whether you’re single, married, divorced, or widowed, reporting your correct marital status to the IRS is crucial. Filing your tax return with the wrong filing status can result in penalties and potential legal issues.

When does the IRS check my marital status?

The IRS does check each and every tax return that is filed. If there are any discrepancies, you will be notified through the mail. For federal income tax purposes, your marital status is determined as of the last day of the tax year. For most taxpayers, that means December 31.

How do I file my federal income tax return as a married couple?

When deciding how to file your federal income tax return as a married couple, you have two filing status options: married filing jointly or married filing separately. Each choice has advantages and drawbacks, so it’s important to understand the differences before making your final decision.

Do husband and wife have to sign a tax return?

Both husband and wife must sign the income tax return. Special rules apply when a spouse cannot sign the tax return because of death, illness, or absence. Both husband and wife are responsible for any tax owed. The lowest tax rates apply to the married filing jointly filing status.

Leave a Comment