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I am married but my spouse and I live apart and we do not file a joint tax return. Instead, I use the “married filing separately” tax filing status. I have low income and need help paying health insurance premiums. Can I qualify for premium tax credits?

Generally no. Married taxpayers are required to file a joint tax return in order to qualify for premium tax credits. People who use the “married filing separately” status are not eligible to receive premium tax credits (and also cannot claim certain other tax breaks, such as the child and dependent care tax credit, tuition deductions, or the earned income tax credit.)  There is a special exception, however, for individuals who must file separately because of domestic abuse or spousal abandonment.

For other married individuals who do not file a joint return, there may be other options.

If you have a dependent and meet certain conditions, you may be able to use the “head of household” filing status. People who file a tax return using this filing status can qualify for premium tax credits.

In addition, if you expect to be divorced by the end of the tax year, you will be able to file as a single taxpayer for that year and could qualify for subsidies under that filing status when you file your taxes.  However, you may not be able to receive all of the premium tax credit that you’re entitled to in advance if you are not yet divorced with you make your Marketplace application.  Except in cases of domestic abuse or spousal abandonment you should not say on your application that you are unmarried when you are still married.

Check with your tax adviser or a health insurance Marketplace Navigator for more information.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.