How can I file tax returns for years I was married? My ex won’t help.

Q. I’m helping someone file their taxes for 2018 and 2019. The problem is he was married those two years and his ex is in no way, shape or form going to give him information that he needs for his return, including her Social Security number. How can he file without it?

— Trying to help

A. We’re glad to hear your friend is getting on track with the IRS.

The good news is that he doesn’t need information from his ex to file.

Individual taxpayers generally use one of four different filing statuses: single, head of household, married filing jointly and married filing separately.

Your friend can file his personal income tax returns for both years using a “married filing separate” filing status, said Neil Becourtney, a certified public accountant and tax partner with CohnReznick in Holmdel.

He said married couples typically file jointly because it’s not only simpler to file one return for two people, but it usually results in a lower tax than filing two returns.

For federal purposes, if one spouse itemizes their deductions, then the other spouse cannot use the standard deduction, Becourtney said. For 2020, the federal standard deduction for a married taxpayer filing separately is $12,400.

“Your friend will need to determine whether his ex-wife is itemizing or not,” he said. “And there conceivably are some carryover items from joint 2017 income tax returns that may impact separate 2018 income tax returns.”

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Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. Find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Sign up for’s weekly e-newsletter.