How To Debate Filing Taxes as Single vs. Married

A newly married couple may debate whether they should file taxes as singles or as a married individual. The IRS ruling though is very specific. It you got married at the end of the taxable year, you should file your taxes as a married person. There is no other way around it, unless you want to cheat. You have to remember that there are hefty fines and sanctions for those who are caught cheating. What you can do is to check which method of filing as married will give you the most savings in tax dollars. Below are some ideas.

  • File another form to change your civil status. You need to do this yourself. Your office will not do this automatically. Choose the option that will work best for you and your spouse. You can consult a tax adviser on what will be the best option to take when you are married. You have two choices to consider – either you file individually as married or file your taxes jointly.
  • IRS rules. According to the IRS website you are considered married if you have been living together as couple; you are living apart but did not have a divorce, a legal separation or decree annulling your marriage, or your divorce is not yet final.
  • Head of household. Even if you are living apart, there are still certain conditions that you can meet so that you can be considered as head of the household and avail of the higher deductions and lower taxes.
  • Talk with your spouse if filing a joint income tax will be more beneficial for the two of you. You can file a joint income tax even if one spouse does not have an income. This may result in you paying much lower taxes than when you choose to file as married filing separately. Your deductions may be higher as long as you do not itemize your deductions and you may be eligible to some tax benefits that you cannot avail of if you are using another filing  status.
  • Check if filing an income tax as married filing separately will give you more savings. You can agree with your spouse that each of you will be responsible for your own income taxes and will file it separately. You can still claim an exemption for your spouse if he or she has no income and is not dependent on someone else in which case you cannot claim that exemption. Review which filing status will be more beneficial to you and use it. Technically you will have less deduction and higher income tax when you file separately as there are some tax benefits that you cannot avail of.
  • Know that there are special rules that you have to observe when you decide to file income taxes as married filing separately. The IRS states that your exemption will only be half of what you are entitled if you file jointly and your tax rate will definitely be higher. You also cannot claim the credit for the medical expenses of your child or your dependent. You also cannot take the earned income credit and most of your other credits and deductions will be reduced. For the whole list of special rules you have to visit the IRS website or consult with a qualified tax adviser.

Paying your income taxes as single is out of the question if you are already married. Your option is either to choose to pay as married filing jointly or married filing separately. There are pros and cons in choosing either one but the former has more in favor for you and your spouse in terms of savings because the option can give you higher deductions, lower tax rate, use of income credits and other tax benefits that are given only to married people who opt to file their income taxes jointly.


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