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Marriage and Money

Financial planning for married couples: Filing income taxes separately & jointly

A big difference you'll notice when managing finances is during tax season. While there are benefits to filing taxes jointly if you are married, sometimes there are reasons to file separately.

If you're like many married couples, you're probably planning on filing taxes jointly with your spouse - and with good reason. The married and filing jointly (MFJ) status generally allows you both to take advantage of many deductions and benefits together as a couple. However, there may be certain situations when filing separate tax returns might be considered. Situations may include:

  • Spouses who are living apart or separated (but not yet divorced) and wish to keep their finances separate
  • A spouse who prefers not to be held personally and financially responsible for the other spouse's return due to possible inaccuracies
  • A spouse who is unable or unwilling to sign a joint return
  • When one spouse wants to file a return and the other does not
  • When it simply makes better financial sense to file separately

According to the IRS, couples that married filing separately generally end up paying more in combined taxes than if they were to file jointly. For this reason the IRS recommends that unless you are required to file separately, you should try and figure your taxes both ways - on a joint return and on separate returns. This way, you can be sure you are using the filing status that could result in the lowest combined tax.

The IRS also suggests that when figuring your combined tax as a married couple, to consider state taxes as well as federal taxes.1 If your main concern about whether or not to file jointly or separately as a married couple is due to finances alone, you may want to crunch the numbers both ways to determine which is best for you. For more information and guidelines about being married and filing separately, visit the IRS Tax Map.





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