If you got married by December 31st of last year, congratulations! You are now officially married in the eyes of the IRS and obligated to indicate this fact when you file your taxes in April. And although tax time becomes a more nuanced process after you start filing as “married”, the benefits of doing so may be worth considering. Here are a few financial planning basics you should know before you file your taxes as a married couple for the very first time.
- If you've changed your name, it's important to notify your employer, the Social Security Administration (SSA), and the IRS as soon as possible
After you've notified your employer, and updated the withholding info on your W-4, you'll need to notify the SSA, and then the IRS. You can find out how to go about notifying both the SSA and the IRS on the official IRS site.
You'll be relieved to hear that it's a relatively simple process that typically only involves filling out and sending in a single form to each government agency. It's important to note that it's essential to notify the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service if your home address has changed since you got married.
- You are not legally required to start filing jointly, even though it can be (but not always) beneficial to do so
You are only required to disclose on your tax forms that you are married. There are options for you to file either “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” on your tax forms. Remember, the choice is up to you. Keep in mind that if you file separately, you could potentially miss out on claiming certain tax benefits. Be sure to consult with a tax professional who can explain the benefits of both, and how your choice can potentially impact your taxes. The more information you have, the better choice you can make for you and your family.
- You may benefit more from claiming itemized tax deductions as a married couple
Before you married, you may have elected to claim a standard tax deduction. However, now that you're officially a couple, ask your tax consultant if you might benefit from itemized tax deductions. (Note: The standard deduction for married couples filing jointly in 2016 is $12,600, according to the IRS.) Uncompensated work expenses, uninsured medical expenses, mortgage interest and real estate taxes, and charitable donations are all items to consider when itemizing deductions. You can find the full itemized deduction list on the Internal Revenue Service's website.
- Big life events can have a big impact on your taxes
Your first home, having a baby, saving for retirement, relocation, unemployment, a new job, or significant medical expenses have the potential to affect your taxes. The good news is that in the overwhelming majority of these instances, the effect should be a positive one. Once again, you can find a complete list of all the life events that may have a significant impact on your taxes (along with all the relevant forms) on the official IRS website.
If you've been filing your own taxes for most of your adult life, this might be a good year to turn the reins over to a tax professional who can walk you and your spouse through the process of filing jointly or separately, help you decide which option is best, and ensure that you aren't missing any tax benefits or IRS tax deductions that you might have coming.
Note: This article is meant to provide general, very basic information on what newlyweds should know about filing your own taxes as a couple. It is in no way meant to offer tax advice. Please consult with your tax professional if you have questions about how to file your own taxes as a newly married couple.