Congratulations, you’re getting married! Both your life, and your taxes, are about to change. If you make it official and are legally married by (or on) December 31st, you can no longer choose that single filing status. Instead, you now have one of two options: married filing jointly or married filing separately.
But first, before you even think of filing, did your name change with the marriage? Make sure the name on file for your social security number matches your new name. If not, you will need to update that first with the Social Security Administration.
Married Filing Jointly
While not all married couples will choose the married filing jointly status, it is the most common filing status for those who are married. This filing status allows you and your spouse to combine your income and your deductions, which could lower your overall tax liability. If you choose to take the standard deduction instead of itemizing deductions, that standard deduction is higher than if you choose to file separately.
*But keep in mind: When you file jointly, it also means you are jointly responsible for any taxes or penalties due.
Married Filing Separately
Even though you and your new spouse may be inseparable, you may want to consider filing your taxes separately. In this case, you will only list your income and any credits or deductions that you may be entitled to. You cannot, however, itemize deductions unless your spouse also itemizes them on his/her tax return. The married filing separately tax status usually results in a higher combined tax liability, but there is always a possibility, due to your specific tax situation, that it could lower that liability. If that’s the case, then filing separately could benefit you. It is always best to discuss the options with your tax preparer.
*Keep in mind: When you do file separately, you may lose the ability to use certain credits and/or deductions, which could increase the taxes you need to pay.
Other Filing Options
There are some circumstances in which you may be able to choose a different filing status, such as head of household, but always check the special rules that may apply or talk to a tax preparer.
Married Tax Statuses in California
When you file your state taxes in California, you must choose the same filing status you chose for your federal taxes. As with all things taxes, there are some exceptions to this rule, especially if you are in a registered domestic partnership.
But wait, does this mean that neither spouse is considered the head of household? Not when it comes to your tax status. Check out our blog post on who can file as head of household if you want to learn more.
Not sure which option is right for you? We’re here to help. Contact one of our tax preparers to discuss your married filing status options.