Can someone file taxes as "single", even though their status on paychecks says "married filing separately"?

A friend of mine got married in spring last year to a non-resident alien ( huge mistake, he thought he was in love and now wants a divorce ). He also started a new job in summer last year and then got laid off this year unfortunately. When filling out the tax paper work he wasn't sure what to put for his... show more A friend of mine got married in spring last year to a non-resident alien ( huge mistake, he thought he was in love and now wants a divorce ). He also started a new job in summer last year and then got laid off this year unfortunately. When filling out the tax paper work he wasn't sure what to put for his status, so he put "married filing separately" hoping it would make filing income taxes for this year less complicated. However, he thinks it seem to have only complicated filing taxes this year instead. He has a 1098-E and 1098-T to include in filing his taxes this year as well being that he was a student. He wants to be able to file his taxes without it being too complex or complicated and to get the best return. In prior years he filed his own returns online as single, along with the 1098E and 1098-T forms and thought it was relatively easy and uncomplicated to do with good returns. He may be getting a divorce this year as things have not worked out between him and his spouse. So he wishes to refer to himself again as single and to file his taxes as single, especially being that his spouse didn't work and they've been separated anyway. Can he do this without being penalized or getting in trouble with the irs? Would it be a problem? Been reading everywhere trying to help him figure this out, and would like helpful feedback from others.
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