What’s Your Taxpayer Filing Status?
For many people, December 31 means a New Year’s Eve celebration. However, from a tax perspective, it’s a key date in determining the filing status you’ll use when filing your tax return for the year. The one you’ll use depends partly on whether you’re married on that date.
The five statuses
When you file your federal tax return, you do so with one of five filing statuses. First, there’s “single” status, which is generally used if you’re unmarried, divorced or legally separated. A second status, “married filing jointly,” is for married couples who file a tax return together. If your spouse passes away, you can usually still file a joint return for that year. A third status, “married filing separately,” is for married couples who choose to file separate returns. In some cases, doing so may result in less tax owed.
“Head of household” is a fourth status. Certain unmarried taxpayers with dependents qualify to use it and potentially pay less tax. Finally, there’s a fifth status: “qualifying widow(er) with a dependent child.” It may be used if your spouse died during one of the previous two years and you have a dependent child. (Other conditions apply.)
Head of household
Let’s focus on head-of-household status because it’s often misunderstood and can be more favorable than filing as a single taxpayer. To qualify, you must “maintain a household” that, for more than half the year, is the principal home of a “qualifying child” or other relative that you can claim as a dependent.
A qualifying child is defined as someone who lives in your home for more than half the year and is your child, stepchild, foster child, sibling, stepsibling or a descendant of any of these. A qualifying child must also be under 19 years old (or a full-time student under age 24) and be unable to provide over half of his or her own support for the year.
Different rules may apply if a child’s parents are divorced. Also, a child isn’t a qualifying child if he or she is married and files jointly or isn’t a U.S. citizen or resident.
For head-of-household filing status, you’re considered to maintain a household if you live in it for the tax year and pay more than half the cost of running it. This includes property taxes, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, property insurance, repairs, upkeep and food consumed in the home. Medical care, clothing, education, life insurance and transportation aren’t included.
Under a special rule, you can qualify as head of household if you maintain a home for a parent even if you don’t live with the parent. To qualify, you must be able to claim the parent as your dependent.
You must generally be unmarried to claim head-of-household status. However, if you’ve lived apart from your spouse for the last six months of the year, you have a qualifying child living with you and you maintain the household, you’re typically considered unmarried. In this case, you may be able to qualify as head of household.
Not always obvious
Filing status may seem obvious, but there can be situations when it warrants careful consideration. If you have questions about yours, contact us.
Have You Considered A Cost Segregation Study?
Because of the economic impact of inflation, many companies may need to conserve cash and not buy much equipment. As a result, you may not be able to claim as many depreciation tax deductions as in the past. However, if your company owns real property, there may be another approach to depreciation to consider: a cost segregation study.
Business buildings generally have a 39-year depreciation period (27.5 years for residential rental properties). Typically, companies depreciate a building’s structural components (including walls, windows, HVAC systems, plumbing and wiring) along with the building. Personal property (such as equipment, machinery, furniture and fixtures) is eligible for accelerated depreciation, usually over five or seven years. And land improvements, such as fences, outdoor lighting and parking lots, are depreciable over 15 years.
Often, businesses allocate all or most of their buildings’ acquisition or construction costs to real property, overlooking opportunities to allocate costs to shorter-lived personal property or land improvements. Items that appear to be “part of a building” may in fact be personal property. Examples include removable wall and floor coverings, removable partitions, awnings, canopies, window treatments, signs and decorative lighting.
A cost segregation study combines accounting and engineering techniques to identify building costs that are properly allocable to tangible personal property rather than real property. Although the relative costs and benefits of a cost segregation study will depend on your particular facts and circumstances, it can be a valuable investment.
It may allow you to accelerate depreciation deductions on certain items, thereby reducing taxes and boosting cash flow. And, thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the potential benefits of a cost segregation study are even greater than they were years ago because of enhancements to certain depreciation-related tax breaks.
Worth a look
Cost segregation studies have costs all their own, but the potential long-term tax benefits may make it worth your while to undertake the process. Contact our firm for further details.