How to File Taxes If You’re Single

(May 2024)

How to File Taxes If You’re Single

In This Article

If you’re single and filing your federal taxes, it means you’re not married, legally separated, or divorced at the end of the tax year, December 31, and you don’t qualify for head of household.

This unique filing position offers simplicity and independence, allowing for straightforward tax submissions without the need for spousal coordination. While you have full control over your financial decisions and may access certain deductions and credits unavailable to married couples, there are notable drawbacks, including a typically lower standard deduction and a higher tax rate in comparison to other individuals filing jointly.

Additionally, the absence of certain benefits and an increased audit risk underscore the importance of meticulous financial management.

To streamline the process, it’s crucial to follow a structured approach when filing taxes. You need to assemble essential documents such as W-2s, 1099s, and receipts to present a clear picture of your income and expenses. Next, decide on your preferred filing method—whether it be on paper, online, or through a tax preparer.

As you progress, carefully calculate your taxable income and choose between the standard or itemized deductions. Take advantage of available tax credits to minimize your tax liability, keeping in mind that some benefits accessible to married couples may not be within reach.

Finally, submit your return by the April 15 deadline (or request an extension), ensuring that any taxes you owe, you pay promptly, or that you claim your refund.

To file your taxes if you’re single:

  1. Establish Your Single Filing Status
  2. Gather the Necessary Documents And Information
  3. Choose a Filing Method
  4. Figure out Your Income and Deductions
  5. Maximize Your Deductions
  6. Report Taxes and Credits
  7. Submit the Return and Pay or Receive the Balance
  8. Know Basic Tips for Filing Your Taxes


1. Establish Your Single Filing Status

Establish Your Single Filing Status

Filing as single is one of five options when doing your federal taxes. It’s for you if you are an unmarried person without dependents. To qualify, you:

  • Must be unmarried, legally separated, or divorced at the end of the tax year.
  • Have no dependents that make you eligible for head of household.
  • Have no civil union or registered domestic partnership equivalent to marriage where you live.


  • Is a simple process; there is no coordinating with a spouse.
  • Has more financial independence and control.
  • Offers the potential for unique deductions or credits, like student loan interest.


  • Entails a lower standard deduction and higher tax rates than filing jointly as a married couple.
  • Means missing out on certain benefits that married couples enjoy.
  • Increases the audit risk without the option of innocent spouse relief.

2. Gather the Necessary Documents And Information

To file your taxes as a single individual, gather these key documents:

  • ID Information: Have your Social Security number or ITIN ready.
  • W-2 Forms: Collect W-2s from each employer, showing your earnings and tax withholdings.
  • 1099 Forms: Gather 1099s for various income sources like interest, dividends, or self-employment.
  • Health Insurance Forms: Get 1095 forms from your health insurance providers, showing coverage and premiums.
  • Loan Interest Forms: If you pay mortgage or student loan interest, collect 1098 forms from lenders.
  • Expense Records: Keep records of deductible expenses like medical bills or charitable donations. These are essential if you’re considering itemizing deductions.
  • Bank Details: If you want a speedy refund through direct deposit or plan to pay electronically, have your bank account and routing numbers handy.

Remember, keeping good records ensures a smoother tax process. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Organizing Your Taxes:

  • Sort with Folders: Separate your tax documents into folders like income, deductions, and payments. You can use physical or digital folders on your computer or in the cloud.
  • Label Smartly: Label each document with source, type, and year, e.g., “W-2 from ABC Company 2023.” Use stickers for paper or rename files for digital.
  • Spreadsheet Magic: Keep track of your income and expenses throughout the year using tools like Excel or Google Sheets. It helps with calculations, and you can easily share or export your data.
  • Go Digital with Apps: Use mobile apps like Evernote or CamScanner to scan, store, and access documents on the go. It adds a layer of security with features like encryption.
  • Backup Safely: Protect against loss or theft when you back up your documents. External drives, flash drives, or online backup services are good options. Regular backups are your safety net.

Pre-Filing Checklist:

  • Cross-Check Documents: Ensure your records and receipts match your documents. Double-check your income, expenses, and taxes for accuracy.
  • Spot Errors: Review for mistakes like wrong names, addresses, or amounts. Correct any discrepancies before filing.
  • Reach Out if Necessary: If you find errors, contact the document issuers promptly. Ask for corrections or missing information, and keep a record of your communication.
  • Save Everything: Keep copies of all documents and correspondence. It’s your proof in case of any questions or issues.

3. Choose a Filing Method

Choose a Filing Method

To file taxes if you are single, choose a filing method. You can use:

Traditional Method: Fill out paper tax forms manually and mail to the IRS. Prone to errors, time-consuming, and less secure.

Online Tax Software: Use tax software on your computer or phone. It guides you, checks for errors, saves time, and provides secure electronic filing.

Human Tax Preparer: Hire a professional like a CPA for complex situations, IRS issues, or special circumstances like a language barrier or disability.

Choose the method that fits your situation and preference!

To pick the best way to file your taxes:

  • Compare Features: Look at ease of use, support, accuracy, security, and refund options.
  • Check Costs: Compare fees, charges, discounts, and refunds.
  • Read Reviews: Consider customer feedback, expert opinions, awards, and rankings.
  • Choose Wisely: Pick what fits your needs, goals, and budget. Try free trials to find the best fit.

Remember to file early: Aim to file before April 15 to avoid penalties, interest, and identity theft.

Benefits of Filing Early:

  • Get your refund faster.
  • Avoid last-minute stress and errors.
  • Lower the risk of identity theft.
  • Reduce or eliminate penalties and interest.

4. Figure out Your Income and Deductions

To document your taxes as a single person, ensure you figure out your taxable income and deductions appropriately.

Calculate Your Income: Add up all the money you make, like your salary, tips, and any other income sources.

Adjust Your Income: Subtract any qualifying expenses, like contributions to retirement or student loan interest. This gives you your adjusted income.

Choose Deductions: Decide if you want a standard deduction (a fixed amount) or itemized deductions (specific expenses like medical costs or charity donations). You can’t use both.

Calculate Taxable Income: Subtract your desirable deduction from your adjusted income. This is the amount you pay taxes on.

Choosing Deductions:

  • Standard Deduction: Go for standard deduction if your itemized deductions are less than the standard amount, you don’t have many receipts, or you want a quicker process.
  • Itemized Deduction: Choose itemized deduction if your list of individual deductions is more than the standard amount, you have receipts as backup, or you want to maximize your tax savings.

Remember, it’s about picking the option that gives you the most tax benefit based on your situation.

5. Maximize Your Deductions

Maximize Your Deductions

Want to make the most of your deductions? Do the following:

Keep Good Records: Keep track of receipts and records for things like medical bills, charity donations, and mortgage interest. Use folders, labels, or apps to be orderly.

Donate Wisely: Give to IRS-recognized charities, and keep receipts for cash or non-cash donations. Use the Tax Exempt Organization Search Tool to check if a charity qualifies.

Consider Mortgage Refinancing: If you can get a better mortgage rate, it may reduce interest payments and increase your deduction.

Save for Retirement: Contribute to a retirement plan like a 401(k) or IRA to lower your taxable income. Understand the rules and limits with the guide–Retirement Topics – Contributions.

Get Help with Taxes: Use tax software or a preparer for accurate calculations. It guides you on deductions and filing options and ensures compliance with tax laws. It’s faster, more secure, and gives you peace of mind.

6. Report Taxes and Credits

To report your federal income tax, you need to:

Calculate Taxable Income: Figure out the income subject to tax after deducting your expenses.

Check Tax Rate: Determine your tax rate based on your income. For 2023, rates range from 10% to 37%.

Compute Tax Amount: Multiply your taxable income using the corresponding tax rate for each bracket and add up.

Explore Tax Credits: Identify and use eligible tax credits (e.g., child tax credit) to reduce your tax liability.

Calculate Tax Liability: Subtract your tax credits from the total tax amount to find your final tax liability.

Report on Form 1040: Transfer your tax liability to Form 1040, which you use to file your federal income tax return.

You can simplify this process using tax software or a tax professional.

Some tips on how to claim your taxes and credits are:

  • Use the right forms when filing your taxes, like Form 1040 and Schedule EIC. Get each form from the IRS website or your tax software. Attach necessary documents—W-2s, 1099s, receipts, etc. Arrange using folders or apps.
  • Follow the instructions carefully. Double-check numbers, names, and dates. Consider using tax software or a professional for accuracy to catch mistakes, optimize credits, and guide you on deductions.
  • Tax software or pros can handle complex calculations, help choose the best options, and ensure compliance. It makes the process smoother, faster, and more secure.

7. Submit the Return and Pay or Receive the Balance

You have two options to file your federal income tax return: mailing it or filing it electronically.

To mail it:

  • Print and sign your return using Form 1040 or 1040-SR.
  • Attach W-2s, 1099s, and supporting documents.
  • Include a check or money order when making a payment.
  • Mail to the IRS using a tracking service.

To file it electronically:

  • Use IRS Free File or authorized software/preparer.
  • Enter personal and financial information, following software prompts.
  • Sign electronically using a PIN or prior-year AGI.
  • Choose a payment or refund option.

Benefits of filing electronically:

  • Mailing is traditional but prone to errors and less secure.
  • Electronic filing is convenient with error-checks and offers faster processing.
  • Use eligible software or preparers for a smoother experience.

Remember, whichever method you choose, ensure accuracy and security in handling your tax information.

Your tax situation boils down to two key numbers: your tax liability (how much you owe) and your tax payments (what you pay). Your goal is to find the balance, which is money you owe or a refund.

If you owe, you need to pay latest April 15 of next year. You can do it with:

  • Check or Money Order: Address it and follow the mailing instructions.
  • Debit/Credit Card: Pay online or with your phone, but watch out for a convenience fee.

Payment Options:

  • Check/Money Order: Mail it in with your return or use Form 1040-V separately.
  • Debit/Credit Card: Pay online or via phone, but be ready for a small fee.
  • Electronic Funds Withdrawal: Let the IRS take it directly from your bank account. Set it up during e-filing or use Direct Pay after filing.
  • Online Payment Agreement: If you can’t pay it all, apply online to pay in installments.

There are different ways to handle your tax balance, so pick what works best for you.

To get your refund, choose how you want to receive it:

  • Direct Deposit: Fast and secure, it goes straight to your bank account. You can split it between up to three accounts.
  • Paper Check: Slower and less secure, it comes via mail. You can cash it or deposit it at your bank.
  • Prepaid Debit Card: Convenient and flexible; no need for a bank account. Use it for purchases, bills, or cash withdrawals.
  • Specify your choice on Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR, or when e-filing with tax software or a preparer.

If you’re due for a refund, you can expect it within 21 days after filing electronically.

8. Know Basic Tips for Filing Your Taxes

Know Basic Tips for Filing Your Taxes
  • Check Your Status: For refund status, try Where’s My Refund? or call 800-829-1954. Have your Social Security number, filing status, and refund amount handy.
  • Keep Important Docs: Save a copy of your return and payment/refund confirmation for at least three years. This includes receipts and supporting documents. It’s useful in case of an audit.
  • Update Your Info: If anything changes—like your address, phone number, or income—update it with the IRS and your state tax agency. Use Form 8822 for IRS address changes.
  • Use Tax Software or Preparer: Consider using tax software or a preparer. It offers security with data encryption, convenience through easy form submission, and assistance with guidance and support. It can also help resolve issues with the IRS.


Filing using the single status offers financial independence but entails a lower standard deduction and higher audit risk.

To file your taxes seamlessly, first confirm your single status and collect vital documents (W-2s, 1099s).

Also, opt for secure online filing, calculate your income and deductions wisely, maximize deductions, and keep impeccable records.

Then, report taxes using Form 1040 and explore credits. Make sure you file electronically for efficiency and manage balances smartly—pay or receive refunds promptly. 

Additional tips–use legit tax software, update information, and keep records for three years. Prioritize accuracy, security, and early filing to reap benefits and avoid last-minute hassles.

This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. . For comprehensive tax, legal or financial advice, always contact a qualified professional in your area. S’witty Kiwi assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

Become a

S'witty Kiwi Credit Insider!

Get the latest credit tips and hacks in your inbox!