Filing Status Information
Use the same filing status for California that you used for your federal income tax return, unless you are in a same-sex marriage or a registered domestic partnership (RDP). If you are a same-sex married individual or an RDP and file single for federal, you must file married/RDP filing jointly or married/RDP filing separately for California. If you are a same-sex married individual or an RDP and file head of household for federal purposes, you may file head of household for California purposes only if you meet the requirements to be considered unmarried or considered not in a domestic partnership.
Exception: If you file a joint tax return for federal purposes, you may file separately for California if either spouse was:
- An active member of the United States armed forces or any auxiliary military branch during 2018.
- A nonresident for the entire year and had no income from California sources during 2018.
Community Property States: If the spouse earning the California source income is domiciled in a community property state, community income will be split equally between the spouses. Both spouses will have California source income and they will not qualify for the nonresident spouse exception. If you had no federal filing requirement, use the same filing status for California that you would have used to file a federal income tax return.
If you filed a joint tax return and either you or your spouse/RDP was a nonresident for 2018, file the California Nonresident or Part-Year Resident Income Tax Return (Long or Short Form 540NR).
You are single if any of the following was true on December 31, 2018:
- You were not married or an RDP.
- You were divorced under a final decree of divorce, legally separated under a final decree of legal separation, or terminated your registered domestic partnership.
- You were widowed before January 1, 2018, and did not remarry or enter into another registered domestic partnership in 2018.
Married/RDP Filing Jointly
You may file married/RDP filing jointly if any of the following is true:
- You were married or an RDP as of December 31, 2018, even if you did not live with your spouse/RDP at the end of 2018.
- Your spouse/RDP died in 2018 and you did not remarry or enter into another registered domestic partnership in 2018.
- Your spouse/RDP died in 2018 before you filed a 2017 return.
Married/RDP Filing Separately
- Community property rules apply to the division of income if you use the married/RDP filing separately status. For more information, get one of the following publications:
- You cannot claim a personal exemption credit for your spouse/RDP even if your spouse/RDP had no income, is not filing a tax return, and is not claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return.
- You may be able to file as head of household if your child lived with you and you lived apart from your spouse/RDP during the entire last six months of 2018.
Head of Household (HOH)
For the specific requirements that must be met to qualify for head of household filing status, see FTB Publication 1540, California Head of Household Filing Status. In general, head of household filing status is for unmarried individuals and certain married individuals or RDPs living apart who provide a home for a specified relative You may be entitled to use head of household filing status if all of the following apply:
- You were unmarried and not in a registered domestic partnership, or you met the requirements to be considered unmarried or considered not in a registered domestic partnership on December 31, 2018.
- You paid more than one-half the cost of keeping up your home for the year in 2018.
- For more than half the year, your home was the main home for you and one of the specified relatives who by law can qualify you for head of household filing status.
- You were not a nonresident alien at any time during the year.
For a child to qualify as your foster child for head of household purposes, the child must either be placed with you by an authorized placement agency or by order of a court.
Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child
Check the box on Form 540, line 5 and use the joint return tax rates for 2018 if all of the following apply:
- Your spouse/RDP died in 2016 or 2017 and you did not remarry or enter into another registered domestic partnership in 2018.
- You have a child, stepchild, adopted child, or foster child whom you claim as a dependent.
- This child lived in your home for all of 2018. Temporary absences, such as for vacation or school, count as time lived in the home.
- You paid over half the cost of keeping up your home for this child.
- You could have filed a joint tax return with your spouse/RDP the year he or she died, even if you actually did not do so.
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Last Updated: 01.10.2019