The Internal Revenue Service recognizes five tax filing statuses as of the 2010 tax year. Each status is dependent upon the taxpayer's marital status as of the last day of the tax year. You must be married as of the last day of the tax year to file a joint return. You may claim an exemption for yourself and an exemption for your spouse if you file a joint return.
Exemption vs. Dependent
An exemption refers to an amount of money that the Internal Revenue Service allows you to exempt from federal income taxes. There are two primary types of exemptions. You can claim a personal exemption for yourself and another personal exemption for your spouse. You can also claim an exemption for each of your dependents. While you can claim an exemption for your spouse, the IRS never considers your spouse to be your dependent.
Value of Exemption
The amount per exemption varies from year to year as determined by the U.S. Congress. The value of each exemption for the 2010 tax year was $3,650. You could take a personal exemption from taxation of $7,300 of your income if you filed your federal income tax return using the married-filing-jointly status for the 2010 tax year. This amount would increase if you had additional dependents.
The U.S. income tax system is a pay-as-you-go system. This means you must pay taxes on your income as it is earned. Your employer typically withholds a certain amount of money from your paycheck and sends it to the IRS. You can determine how much money is withheld by correctly filling out your Form W-4. If you intend to file your tax return using the married-filing-jointly status, you should fill out your Form W-4 using the married status and claiming the proper number of exemptions. You can typically claim one exemption for yourself, one for your spouse and one for each of your dependents. You can decrease the amount of money that is withheld from your paycheck by increasing the number of exemptions you claim on your Form W-4.
Each person is entitled to one exemption. You may claim an exemption for yourself unless someone else, such as a parent, claims the exemption. You can claim an exemption for your spouse if you file a joint return. You may not claim an exemption for your spouse if you file a separate return, unless your spouse had no gross income, is not filing a return and was not the dependent of another taxpayer. You can still file a joint return and claim an exemption for your spouse if she died during the tax year.
Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.