Filing Taxes Jointly for the First Time
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So you’ve tied the knot. Congrats! Getting married comes with a lot of firsts, which can be exciting and challenging. For one, this is likely the first time you’ve had the option of filing taxes jointly. Many same-sex couples might be filing jointly for the first time this year, too.

Although you have the option to file taxes jointly, you also can choose to file as “married filing separately.” Here are some considerations to help you decide how to file, plus tips if you decide to file your taxes jointly.

Should You File Your Taxes Jointly?

It makes sense for most couples to file taxes jointly because the tax rate is usually lower and you can claim higher standard deductions. But every couple’s financial situation is unique. Consider these key points when deciding to file jointly or separately:

  • Employment status: If your spouse works at home and takes substantial deductions on a home office and other work-related expenses — and you have a regular paycheck and don’t itemize — it might make sense to keep your filing status separate. Your combined income may push you into a higher tax bracket, making your spouse’s deductions less impactful. Check with your tax preparer to make sure.
  • Capital gains: Did you or your spouse realize a gain on a stock market or real estate investment this year? You’ll need to pay taxes on that additional income (also known as capital gains), which can affect your tax liability.
  • Gambling winnings: Hurray! Your spouse won $20,000 at the casino. Unfortunately, he or she will need to claim that as income on your taxes. It might be enough to push you into a higher bracket.
  • Back taxes, alimony, or child support: If either of you owe substantial back taxes, alimony, or child support, it may make sense to file separately until those situations are resolved.

If you’re dealing with any of these considerations, it may make sense to file separately until these wild cards are resolved and you’ve made all your financial decisions together as a couple for a full year.

Tips for Filing Taxes Jointly

If you decide to file taxes jointly, ask these questions before you get to your tax preparer’s office to make the process go smoother:

  • Where are your receipts? When filing jointly, you need twice the paperwork: two sets of W-2s or 1099s; two sets of medical expense documents, receipts, and other documentation; and two of any other papers you may need to file. As soon as you start life as a married couple (or ideally, before) set up a system for gathering and filing that paperwork so you won’t rush around trying to unearth it at tax time.
  • Did one of you change your name or address? Save yourself a headache at tax time by letting the government know right away if either you or your spouse changed your name or address. If one of you changed your last name, contact the Social Security Administration to get a new Social Security card. For a change of address, contact the IRS and fill out a change of address form. Doing so will prevent any return from bouncing back with database mismatch glitches, especially if you’re e-filing.
  • Have you spoken with human resources at work? If you have a new last name, let the HR department at your office know. They’ll change your name on your W-2 so it will match what’s on your tax return.
  • Did you get married in the middle of the tax year? If the tax year starts in January, how do you file taxes if you got married in October? Fortunately, the IRS handles this in a very easy, straightforward way: Your marital status on December 31 determines your tax status for that year.

Every couple’s financial situation is unique, so sit down with your tax preparer well before tax time to discuss your filing status. Get more help filing your taxes at the Regions Tax Center.

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This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Regions makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented. Information provided should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Regions encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.