What does the filing status on your pay stub mean?

Head of the family

Presented by Paystrubmakr.com      By John Wolf and Tom Cullen CPA

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2021 tax filing season begins Feb. 12; IRS outlines steps to speed refunds during the pandemic

IR-2021-16, January 15, 2021

WASHINGTON ― The Internal Revenue Service announced that the nation’s tax season will start on Friday, February 12, 2021, when the tax agency will begin accepting and processing 2020 tax year returns.

The February 12 start date for individual tax return filers allows the IRS time to do additional programming and testing of IRS systems following the December 27 tax law changes that provided a second round of Economic Impact Payments and other benefits.

This programming work is critical to ensuring IRS systems run smoothly. If filing season were opened without the correct programming in place, then there could be a delay in issuing refunds to taxpayers. These changes ensure that eligible people will receive any remaining stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return.

When you fill out a pay stub form or talk to your HR, you must tell them your filing status so they can pay the correct amount on your pay stub.  It is not complicated, just whether you are married or not usually, but there are a few things to think about, so let’s get into it and make sure we know what’s happening.

Tax Guide

Pay Stub and Filing Status

Filing status affects a person’s filing requirement, standard deduction, and correct tax. It may also determine whether certain deductions and credits may be claimed.

Pay Stub and Marital Status

Marital status is determined on the last day of the tax year. If a taxpayer is unmarried, their filing status is:

  • Single, or
  • If they meet certain requirements, head of household If a taxpayer is married, their filing status is either:
  • Married filing a joint return, or
  • Married filing a separate return

Note: Married couples may find it beneficial to figure their tax on both joint and separate returns to see which gives the lower tax.

Fling tax


Pay Stub and Unmarried 

A taxpayer is considered unmarried for the whole year if:

  • They have obtained a final decree of divorce or separate maintenance by the last day of their tax year; or

Note: If a couple obtains a divorce in one year for the sole purpose of filing tax returns as unmarried individuals. At the time of divorce they intend to remarry each other and do so in the next tax year, they must file as married individuals (R.R. 76-255).

  • They have obtained a decree of annulment, which holds that no valid marriage ever existed

Note: Taxpayers also must file amended returns claiming unmarried status for all tax years affected by the annulment that are not closed by the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations generally does not end until three years after filing the original return.

  • State law determines if a taxpayer is divorced or legally separated. For example, in California, an interlocutory decree is not a separate maintenance decree or legal separation and the spouses are still considered married.
Do not let your due!


Abandoned Spouse Rule – §7703

A married person living apart from their spouse is treated as an unmarried taxpayer if they do all of the following:

  • Files a separate return;
  • Maintains as a household, which, for more than half the taxable year, is the principal place of abode of a son, daughter, stepson or stepdaughter for whom the taxpayer is entitled to a dependency deduction, or would have been so entitled except that:
  • Furnishes more than one-half the cost of maintaining the household; and
  • Does not have the other spouse living in the household during the last six months of the taxable year (2(c); §7703(b)).

As we said, not too complicated, but it has a few wrinkles to get through 😉

If you aren’t sure how to run your payroll numbers, jump on paystubmakr.com, and we have a handy little payroll paystub generator ready to run those numbers easily.

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Disclaimer: John Wolf and paystubmakr.com are making a total effort to offer accurate, competent, ethical HR management, employer, and workplace advice.  We do not use the words of an attorney, and the content on the site is not given as legal advice. The website has readers from all US states, which all have different laws on these topics. The reader should look for legal advice before taking any action.  The information presented on this website is offered as a general guide only.