Tying the Knot on Taxes: Married Filing Jointly vs. Separately

January 26, 2015
The married filing jointly status comes with lots of IRS tax benefits, but sometimes married filing separately is necessary.

The married filing jointly status comes with lots of IRS tax benefits, but sometimes married filing separately is necessary.

Today is Spouses Day – a day on which spouses should recognize each other. It’s also the perfect time to review your IRS tax standing to ensure you know which filing status to choose as a married couple before filing your return this year.

When two individuals get married, their tax status with the IRS may change. Selecting the appropriate filing status can have a big effect on how much you pay in taxes every year. Remember that the marital status of an individual on December 31st of a given year determines if this person is classified as “married” for that calendar year.

There are two basic IRS filing statuses from which married couples can choose when filing their federal income taxes. These are known as married filing jointly and married filing separately.

Married Filing Jointly

In general, the status of married filing jointly comes with more tax benefits than those who choose to file separate returns before the April 15th deadline. The IRS gives married couples who file jointly one of the largest standard deductions, allowing them to write off a good amount of the income they collectively earn each year. Plus, joint filers can write off two exemption amounts from their income, and they are typically eligible for a host of valuable tax credits. These include the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the American Opportunity Tax Credit, and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. Finally, couples who file joint returns are able to meet higher income thresholds for certain taxes and deductions, allowing them to qualify for more tax breaks despite higher incomes each year.

Married Filing Separately

If you choose the option of married filing separately, you may not qualify for many of the tax benefits that go along with filing a joint return. More specifically, you may not qualify for the tuition and fees deduction, tax-free exclusions of certain income, education credits, and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.

On a positive note, separate filers are only responsible for the income they earn and not their spouse’s income. Thus, they’re only responsible for paying what they specifically owe in taxes. Joint returns make both spouses responsible for the accuracy of the tax return and puts both on the hook for any current or future tax penalties and liabilities. If there is a significant difference between your income and what your spouse earns, it could be beneficial to file separately as well.

How Should My Spouse and I File?

The best way to determine which IRS filing status is most appropriate and beneficial to you and your spouse is to weigh both options. Make the calculations, and then take a look at the net refund or balance due using both filing options.

1-800Accountant offers guidance on tax changes that may occur when people get married – and other life changes such as having a child or moving to a new state. For all of your tax assistance, call 1-800-222-6868 or check out the “Services” page on www.1-800Accountant.

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