When you file your New Jersey income tax return, your filing status and taxable income determine the amount of tax you will pay. In general, New Jersey follows the Federal guidelines for determining your filing status. If you file a Federal income tax return, in most cases you must use the same filing status on your New Jersey return, unless you are a partner in a civil union. If you are not required to file a Federal return, use the same filing status on your New Jersey return that you would have used if you had filed a Federal return.
The Civil Union Act (P.L. 2006, c.103) established civil unions in New Jersey for couples of the same sex. Effective for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2007, partners in a civil union recognized under New Jersey law must file their New Jersey income tax returns using the same filing statuses accorded spouses under New Jersey Gross Income Tax Law. Partners in a civil union may not use the filing status single even though they do so for Federal purposes.
There are five filing statuses listed on the New Jersey income tax return but you may use only one.
Single. Your filing status is single if you are unmarried or not a partner in a civil union (or legally separated from your spouse/civil union partner under decree of divorce/dissolution) on the last day of the tax year, and you do not qualify for head of household or qualifying widow(er)/surviving civil union partner status.
Married/Civil Union Couples. If you are married or in a civil union on the last day of the tax year, you and your spouse/civil union partner may choose to file as married/CU couple, filing a joint return, or married/CU partner, filing a separate return. You may use the "joint" or "separate" statuses only if you were married or in a civil union on the last day of the tax year. If you were a member of a domestic partnership registered in New Jersey, you are not considered "married" and you may not use these filing statuses. However, if you also entered into a legally sanctioned same-sex relationship outside New Jersey, you may still be able to use the joint or separate filing statuses for married or CU couples. For more information, see Civil Union Act.
Head of Household. If you meet the requirements to file as head of household for Federal income tax purposes, you may file as head of household for New Jersey. Certain married individuals/civil union partners living apart may file as head of household for New Jersey if they meet the requirements to file as head of household for Federal purposes.
You may also qualify to file as head of household if you are no longer eligible to file as qualifying widow(er)/surviving CU partner and you have not remarried or entered into a new civil union.
Qualifying Widow(er)/Surviving Civil Union Partner. If your spouse/civil union partner died during the year, you may file a joint return for the two of you provided you did not remarry or enter into a new civil union before the end of the year. You may be eligible to use the filing status "qualifying widow(er)/surviving civil union partner" for 2012 only if your spouse/CU partner died in either 2010 or 2011, you did not remarry or enter into a new civil union before the end of 2012, and you meet the other requirements to file as qualifying widow(er) with dependent child for Federal purposes.
Remember to follow Federal guidelines for determining your filing status and use the same filing status that you used or would have used on your Federal return, unless you are a partner in a civil union.
Additional information on filing status is contained in Tax Topic Bulletin GIT-4, Filing Status.