Filing Status

Alabama law recognizes four filing status designations, Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, and Head of Family.


A taxpayer is "single" for purposes of his Alabama income tax return if, on December 31 he is either unmarried, or separated from his spouse by a divorce decree or a decree of separate maintenance. It is the marital status on December 31 that matters, regardless of what may have happened during the rest of the year. A Single taxpayer is entitled to a personal exemption of $1,500.

Married Filing Jointly

As is the case with Federal returns, a married couple will generally pay less Alabama income tax if they file a joint return than they would if they used the Married Filing Separately designation. A couple can file a joint Alabama return if they are legally married on December 31 and living together on that date. Alabama does recognize common law marriages for income tax purposes. If one spouse is a resident of Alabama and the other spouse is a resident of another state, the couple may not file a joint return. They must file as Married Filing Separately.

If a spouse dies during the taxable year, the survivor may still file a joint return for that taxable year; but there is no Surviving Spouse status available for subsequent years as is the case under Federal law. If a spouse dies before the return for the previous year has been filed, the surviving spouse may file a joint return for that previous year, as well as for the year in which the death occurred. An Alabama income tax return cannot be amended after the original due date in order to change the filing status from Married Filing Jointly to Married Filing Separately.

A married couple filing a joint return claims a personal exemption of $3,000.

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Married Filing Separately

If a couple is legally married and living together on December 31, they have the option of choosing to file separately rather than filing a joint return. Each spouse reports only his or her separate income, deductions, exemptions and credits. Alabama is not a community property state. When a married couple files separate returns, each spouse is entitled to a personal exemption of $1,500.

Head of Family

Alabama's definition of Head of Household(1) is linked to the federal definition which states that a taxpayer can claim Head of Family status if he is either unmarried or legally separated on December 31, is not a surviving spouse, and meets either of the two tests below:

  • Test 1 -The taxpayer provided more than 50% of the cost of maintaining a home that was the main home of his parent, and he can claim that parent as a dependent. It is not necessary that the parent lived in the taxpayer's home; i.e., he may have provided more than half the cost of a separate home for his parent.

  • Test 2 -The taxpayer provided more than 50% of the cost for the home where he lived and where one of the following also lived:

    1. His unmarried child, grandchild, great-grandchild, adopted child, or step-child. The child does not have to qualify as his dependent.
    2. A married child from the list in Number 1. The married child must qualify as his dependent, except in cases where the married child is being claimed by the taxpayer's divorced spouse as a dependent.
    3. Any relative that he can claim as a dependent.

An Alabama taxpayer claiming Head of Family Status is entitled to a personal exemption of $3,000.

Proration of Personal Exemption

A part year resident can claim the full personal exemption for his filing status on Form 40. There is no requirement to prorate the exemption amount. However, a nonresident using Form 40NR may claim only a fraction of the otherwise allowable personal exemption for his filing status. The numerator of the fraction is his total income from Alabama sources, and the denominator is his total income from all sources.

This page last updated 2/8/13

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(1) Alabama Administrative Code 810-3-19-.02