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Tips for Filing Joint Tax Returns

Newly married? You and your spouse may decide that filing a joint tax return is best for your financial situation.
Image of person typing on laptop. Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash.

Whether you’ve just married or are discussing financial arrangements, the question of how to file as a married couple is important for both you and your partner’s finances. Depending on your circumstances, it may be better to file a joint tax return. 

What’s the difference between a joint tax return and a married filed separate tax return?

For starters, if you’re newly married, you’ll no longer be able to file your taxes as “Single”. Your two options are a married filing joint return or a married filing separately  return. Filing jointly combines both your finances and your spouse’s finances. Filing separate returns means you both must file your own tax return, much as you would if you were single--but with different forms and allowable deductions. 

Depending on your financial situation, filing a separate return may be beneficial. That being said, filing jointly usually provides the most benefits for married couples.

What are the benefits of filing a joint return?

In short, you’ll most likely receive a larger refund or a larger reduction in your overall taxes due. Here’s a quick breakdown of the benefits you could receive:

  • The IRS provides those who file jointly a larger standard deduction than it does for those who elect to file married but separate.
  • You could be placed in a lower tax bracket, especially if you and your spouse have different levels of income. 
  • You’re able to deduct any retirement account contributions that you or your spouse have made.

Are there any downsides to filing a joint return?

There are a few potential issues or downsides to filing together. Some examples include the following:

  • If you or your spouse make a mistake on your joint tax return, the IRS can hold both of you accountable. 
  • If you and your spouse make the same level of income, you may owe more in some circumstances than if you had filed separately.
  • If you or your spouse has an income-based federal student loan repayment plan, filing a joint return could be more costly over time.

My partner and I aren’t married. Can we also file a joint return? 

Unfortunately not. Neither domestic partnerships nor those in civil unions can file jointly. Only legally married partners qualify for these tax benefits. 

I got divorced late last year. Can I still file a joint return since I was married for the majority of the year? 

No. The IRS requires any couple who divorced up through the last day of the year to file a single tax return.

Just got married? Not sure if filing jointly or separately would be more beneficial? Set up a free consultation with one of our Tax Professionals, and we’ll figure out which works best for you.