If you are legally married and share a home with your spouse for most of the tax year, you’re eligible to file your taxes as either “Married Jointly” or “Married Separately.” The difference between the two statuses is mainly in the amount of standard deductions you’re allowed to claim. Married filing jointly gets more tax breaks than opting for married but filing separately.
Whether it’s better to file jointly or separately depends on many different factors, including your total income, your available deductions or credits, and the status of your marriage. When in doubt, contact a tax law professional who can give you a professional opinion based on your specific details. But here are a few things to consider when deciding which one is better for you and your husband.
Things to Consider When Filing Separately
- Only one person can claim the tax deductions and credits relating to your children. In some cases, this might mean that the person who files claiming the kids will get money back while the person who doesn’t claim them will owe money.
- Depending on the laws in your state and the details of your marriage–prenuptial agreement terms, length of marriage, etc–you may not be entitled to any money your husband receives as a refund.
- Filing “Married Separately” is different than filing “Single.” You still need your spouse’s signature on the tax return if you’re filing any type of married status.
- Although your tax rate is based on many factors, filing “Married Separately” generally makes your tax rate higher than filing “Married Jointly”.
Things to Consider When Filing Jointly
- If your spouse has some sort of debt that the government can withhold through his tax refund, your money will likely get taken, too. This includes old tax bills, unearned unemployment benefits, and unpaid child support.
- Any refund money and any tax bill from your return will be a joint asset or debt.
- You will need to wait for your spouse to gather his financial paperwork–W-2 forms, 1099s, etc–before you can file.
- If your spouse is dishonest about anything on the tax return, you can be liable for the repercussions. The IRS can go back as far as six years to audit your returns. Even if you’re not together anymore, you and your spouse both are responsible for any issues related to your joint returns.
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