When Is it Beneficial For a Married Couple to File Taxes as Married Filing Separately?

married tax filers

There are so many exciting things to look forward to after you get married, but taxes are not one of those things. Unfortunately, they just so happen to be one of the most important financial conversations you’ll have as a married couple. One of the most taxing questions (please, forgive me, I couldn’t help myself) newlyweds ask when it comes to filing their taxes for the first time as a married couple is whether or not they should file together or separately. Some people might assume that being able to file married filing jointly is a no-brainer in the bigger tax deductions department, but it’s not always the case. Some tax situations are a bit more complicated, and require that you spend a few moments really thinking through the most beneficial tax situation for you and your new spouse.

When tax brackets change

One consideration to make when it comes to filing your income taxes is your tax bracket. If one of you makes significantly more than the other, it’s not always a good idea to file together because it then raises the tax bracket of the lower-earning spouse and results in more tax liability. Do the math and figure out if it will make a big difference.


Sadly, not everyone in the world has a clean credit history. If your new spouse has federal offsets for child support or student loans that the IRS will seize to pay those outstanding debts, you want to file separately. Why? Your money can and will be taken, too, to pay for debts that are not yours. You can file a form 8379 to help get your portion of the income taxes back, but it takes a lot longer and usually doesn’t end up the way you want it to.

To note

Another concept that many married couples are not quite sure about is whether they can file single or married filing separately once they get married. Here is the deal; it doesn’t matter if you got married January 1 of the tax year or December 31 and you were only married a half hour before the New Year began. The IRS considers you married for the tax year and filing separately or jointly are your only options. Your single filing days are officially over.

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