Should married couples file their taxes jointly or separately? TurboTax explains

Like many decisions made in a marriage, couples’ choices are tied to their particular circumstances. The same goes for the filing status you choose when you get married. After marriage, your filing status will change from single or head of household to joint filing or married separately, but couples often wonder, “What is my filing status now that I’m married?” And “Should I file a marriage file jointly or separately”?

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Depending on when you got married, you may not have been married for more than half of the year by the time tax time arrives. Typically, the IRS considers you to be married all year round, even if you don’t get married until the last day of the year. So, if you are legally married on December 31st, then you need to file either a declaration of joint marriage or a declaration of marriage separately.

Here are some reasons why married couples choose to file jointly or separately.

Let’s review the pros and cons of filing a joint or separate tax return.

Advantages of joint filing of filing

Do I have to file a declaration of marriage jointly?

In general, couples who file a marriage declaration jointly versus separately receive more tax breaks and, in turn, more money in their pockets at tax time.

For example, the IRS gives couples who jointly file the largest standard deduction each year. This standard deduction allows couples to immediately deduct a considerable amount from their taxable income. For 2021, the standard deduction for a couple filing jointly is $ 25,100, compared to $ 12,550 if you are married and filing separately or if you are single.

For couples to qualify for certain tax credits, they cannot file a marriage declaration separately and must file a joint tax return. Some popular tax credits that couples who file a declaration of joint marriage may be entitled to include:

  • Child care and dependent care tax credit of up to $ 8,000 with 2 or more children
  • Earned income tax credit up to $ 6,728 for a family with 3 or more children
  • American Opportunity Tax Credit up to $ 2,500 per person
  • Lifetime learning tax credit of up to $ 2,000 per tax return

Generally, couples who file a declaration of joint marriage may have more income and still benefit from certain tax credits and deductions.

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Disadvantages of the separate marriage declaration

What are the disadvantages of filing a separate tax return for married people?

Couples who choose to file separate tax returns receive few tax incentives. Filing separate income tax returns puts you at a higher tax rate. The standard deduction for married separate filers is significantly lower than that available for married spouses at $ 12,550 for 2021.

Some common disadvantages of filing a separate tax return also include:

  • Cannot deduct interest from student loans.
  • Usually limited to a smaller IRA contribution deduction.
  • Disqualified from several tax credits and benefits offered to married people filing jointly.

When can it make sense to file separately?

In general, couples who jointly file a marriage declaration benefit from more tax breaks, but sometimes it may be a good idea to consider filing a separate tax return for the marriage.

These situations can include the following scenarios:

  • If they are together, the married couple’s income would be too high to qualify for the medical expense deduction, but filing a married record separately might qualify for their medical expense deduction.
  • If your spouse’s tax bill is large, then the separate deposit can serve as protection so that your refund does not apply to what your spouse owes.
  • If your spouse has not paid the child support payments, filing separately would prevent the IRS from taking your share of any refund.

How do I decide which deposit status to use?

The best filing status will depend on your individual situation. Most people benefit from the joint declaration of marriage because tax rates can be lower and there are more deductions and tax credits available when you file a joint declaration of marriage. You can use our free TurboTax TaxCaster, to estimate your overall tax position and your tax refund if you are filing a married return jointly or a married return separately before filing. At tax time, TurboTax will guide you in choosing the right filing status for your situation.

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Whatever your situation, TurboTax has you covered. Remember, we’ll ask you simple questions about yourself and give you the deductions and credits you’re entitled to based on your entries. If you have any questions, you can connect live via one-way video to English or Spanish TurboTax Online Tax Expert to get help along the way or pair up with a dedicated TurboTax Live Tax Expert who specializes in your unique situation and can do your taxes from start to finish. All in the comfort of your own home.

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