How Will Marriage Affect Someone's Tax Filing?

How will marriage affect someone's tax filing? There are some things you'll want to be aware of when filing your tax return if you have recently been wed. Marriage brings about some of the biggest changes...

Marriage brings about some of the biggest changes in two peoples lives- once separate units, they are now operating in all things as partners- a team- and taxes are no exception. There are some things you'll want to be aware of when filing your tax return if you have recently been wed.

At this time, the IRS defines a marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman. Whether or not you are still married when you file taxes, or how long you may have been married in the year is irrelevant. As Brian K. Gilroy, Attorney and CPA, explains that it is your status at the end of the tax year that is important. "If you get married on New Year's Eve, you're married for the year. One hour in that year, your status as of December 31st of whatever tax year controls what we do," says Gilroy.

If you were considered married in the given tax year, you cannot file as single, 'Qualifying Widow(er),' or as 'Head of Household,' even if you were single for most of the year. You have two tax filing options when you are married, explains Gilroy. "When you're married you have to either file married, filing jointly or married, filing separately."

Which filing status you should choose will depend on your circumstances. "There are cases where, if you're married, it's better to file jointly, and other cases in which it's better to file separately- it simply depends on the adjustable gross income of the husband and wife," explains Mr. Gilroy. " If two singles end up in the lower part of the bracket, and if you were to double them they end up in the higher part of the bracket, it's a little different. It just depends on the respective incomes." If in question, you can have both joint and separate returns prepared, and simply file the one that gives you the lower tax. Especially in your first year of marriage, it would be smart to seek the advice of a tax professional to help determine which status would be most beneficial to your particular case.

Mr. Gilroy cautions, "There is a significant number of benefits that you lose when you're married filing separately." According to the tax code, married filing separately generally makes a couple ineligible for tax benefits such as the earned income credit, the credit for child and dependent care expenses, the credit for higher education expenses, you can't exclude the interest on bonds used for educational purposes- these are just a few of the drawbacks of filing separately. In addition, "If one person out of a married couple itemizes, the other must itemize also," says Gilroy.

If you have been concerned about what has in the past been known as "the marriage penalty," you need not worry any longer. "There used to be an issue about the fact that if you were single as opposed to married you paid less money. In the last year they made everything in half, so there is no longer the 'marriage penalty.'"

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