10 Tips for Getting the Biggest Tax Refund


Review Your Filing Status

black couple just married
If you're married, it's better for tax purposes to file jointly, though there are some exceptions. Bread and Butter Productions/Getty Images

Filing status, such as single, head of household, married filing separately or jointly, and others, can greatly influence the amount of money you receive in your refund. This is mostly because each different filing status qualifies for a different standard deduction. Depending on your financial and family situations, you'll want to pick a filing status that minimizes your tax burden and increases your chance of a refund.

In general, married couples should expect a larger tax refund if they file jointly. Filing a joint return qualifies you for that $24,000 standard deduction and can offer some tax breaks unavailable to those filing separately. (If you're married but file separately, the deduction is $12,000 each.)

There are some situations, however, in which a couple may choose to file separately. Andy Lafond, a CPA and accounting professor at Lasalle University, says one reason to file separately is if one spouse earns considerably less and also has a lot of unreimbursed medical expenses. In that case, filing separately allows the lower-earning spouse to deduct more of those medical expenses, because the IRS only allows you to deduct expenses in excess of 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income (10 percent in 2019).

Lafond also sees a lot of taxpayers lose out on tax savings because they file as individuals instead of head of household. Single parents, for example, shouldn't file as individuals if they have one or more children living with them at least six months out of the year. Same with people who are taking care of an elderly parent or relative. If you are financially responsible for that person and they live with you at least half the year, then you qualify as a head of household. Heads of household get an $18,000 standard deduction compared to $12,000 for individuals.