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Separated couples have filing option

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Q: I'm having a problem with my 2004 return, so I had to file an extension. My wife and I separated last year, and we're filing separate returns. I'm in the 25 percent tax bracket. If she claims the standard deduction as a head of household, do I need to do the same? B.S.F., Norfolk, Va.

A: No. If your spouse claims the standard deduction on her tax return ($7,150 for a head of household for 2004 tax year), you still have the option of claiming the standard deduction yourself ($4,850 for 2004) or itemizing your deductions. In most cases, middle-income and upper-income taxpayers fare better by itemizing. Tip: If things were the other way around—your ex-spouse itemizes deductions—you would be required to itemize as well instead of claiming the standard deduction.

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