Published on: May 27, 2021 Last modified: June 2, 2021

Just Married? How to Handle Taxes as a Married Couple

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    The Complete Guide to Filing Options for Just-Married Taxes

    Making the transition to married life comes with more than a “just married” sign: It also comes with just married taxes. The new filing status can cause a lot of confusion for a newly married couple.

    The IRS gives specific guidelines on who can file as head of household, jointly, and separately. There are rules for dependents, name changes, and address changes. Mistakes can cost time, effort, and a good chunk of income. It’s easy to understand how so many people get confused. 

    You are eligible for 2021 tax purposes to file as a married couple if you were married before December 31. That’s the first step. The next is having all your legal documentation in order before it’s time to file. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about taxes for newly married couples.

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    Taxes for Newly Married Couples

    The IRS asks for several adjustments when you change from filing single to jointly in a marriage, such as changes in name and address, filing status, and withholding. There is even more to do if children are involved. Here are some changes that must be made:

    Choosing Your Filing Status

    Choosing to file jointly or separately is one question that every couple will face. Taxes for married couples are a little more simple to understand, though, with the right knowledge of how each status benefits you.

    Married Filing Jointly

    When couples file jointly, the IRS offers several tax benefits. Filing jointly can make them eligible for additional standard deductions and tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, for example. Combining incomes may increase itemized deductions.

    Another reason to file jointly is that couples are typically eligible for larger refunds because the income threshold is much higher for a couple filing jointly. This could put them into a lower income bracket, and the couple may be able to claim more deductions.

    Married Filing Separately

    It may not always make sense to file jointly; separate tax returns can be a better option in some cases. Here are a few reasons filing separately may be best for you:

    These issues are the main reasons why a married couple might file separately, but they’re not the only ones. Expert tax help can steer you in the right decision.

    When You’re Going Through a Divorce

    Filing jointly while going through a divorce can lead to unforeseen tax liability. It’s beneficial to file separately to avoid footing the bill for your partner’s tax debts.

    Choosing to file separately may make the most sense for you and your spouse in these cases. Preparing both types of tax returns is one way to check which approach is better, allowing you to identify how to get the highest tax refund.

    Filing Tax Returns for International Partners

    Filing your tax return will look a little different from usual if your spouse is not a U.S citizen. You have two options for how to approach your spouse’s filing status.

    Tax law is complex, and it can be challenging to choose whether you should file jointly or not. Consult with a tax expert if you are unsure and want to take advantage of the tax benefits you’ve got coming to you.

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    Filing Taxes as a Civil Union

    A civil union is legally recognized as a marital arrangement with the same rights and responsibilities as married people. Its primary purpose is to give legal recognition to same-sex couples. Here’s what to keep in mind:

    Another common question many same-sex couples have regarding their taxes is how to handle dependents. Children of the couple may be claimed on one taxpayer’s return, but not on both, as long as the child qualifies under IRS section 152c. This states that a qualifying child must have a particular relationship with the taxpayer, be of a specific age, and live with the taxpayer for over half of the year. Staying the summer with another parent or grandparent is not an issue. Same-sex couples also are not permitted to claim their partners as dependents.

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    Changing Personal Information After Marriage

    When you get married, a lot of information changes. Many people choose to change their name, and couples often relocate to a new address. Both changes can impact your tax return and require a few extra steps to take care of.

    Name Changes and Your Tax Return

    Those who choose to change their name after marriage should be aware that they’ll need to do more legwork when filing their return the first year. The name on your tax return needs to match the name on your Social Security card or the IRS will reject it, and you’ll be back at square one. You also:

    Remember to have your marriage license, new Social Security card, and driver’s license with your new name when you file your taxes.

    Change of Address on Your Return

    Changing your address on your tax return is a simple process: You just need to complete a Change of Address Form and mail it to the IRS. This will help the agency update its system to display your personal information on your form accurately.

    Failing to notify the IRS of your address change could delay your refund check. It can also cause your check to be sent to the wrong place.

    Stay on top of updating the government about personal changes after marriage to avoid confusion and delayed returns. A good rule of thumb is to change your address as soon as you’ve moved the last box. Don’t wait to unpack. 

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    Deaths and Divorces

    Spousal situations associated with a new marriage, such as death and divorce, can cause further complications in filing your return. In these situations, it can be tricky to know how to file. Here are some guidelines:

    When a Previous Spouse Passes Away

    You are still considered married to your spouse for the entire year if your previous spouse passed away during the last tax year. You can still file either jointly or separately in this case. The IRS asks that you write “filing as a surviving spouse” next to your name in the signature line if there is no personal representative present to sign for the deceased spouse. Things are a little different if you remarry in the same year, however. You will not be able to file jointly. A representative would separately file on behalf of your deceased spouse.

    When You Divorce During a Tax Year

    You will still be able to file using the “married” status if you are only separated. It will be up to you and your spouse to decide whether to file jointly or separately. You can choose to file either as head of household or as single if you are divorced. Anyone filing as the head of household must be the custodial parent of any children. You can also file as head of household if you paid for most home expenses during the year.

    Alimony Tax Deduction

    Alimony was eliminated as a tax deduction as of 2019, so it is no longer a deduction or reportable income.

    No one wants the hassle of tax troubles when dealing with these difficult situations. A tax attorney can take the guesswork out of the predicament and get you the best return.

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    Newly Married Tax Advantages

    There are some wonderful advantages to getting married, besides true love and companionship. The IRS provides some benefits to people who say “I do,” such as:

    Charitable Deductions

    A married couple is allowed greater deductions for charitable donations. Charitable contribution deductions can be no more than 50% of your income, typically. Being married raises the limit. The amount depends on filing status and the amount of the contributions.

    Faster and Cheaper

    This one is a no-brainer. Two people filing one return takes less paperwork, time, effort, and cost.

    Estate Protection

    A married person can bequeath all their wealth to their spouse when they die. This keeps the federal government from generating an estate tax until the surviving spouse dies. 

    Benefit Shopping

    Married couples who both have benefits packages from their jobs can usually pick and choose which benefit they want from each plan. One spouse often has a better package than the other in some way. Choosing benefits like this can result in tax savings, such as a dependent care flexible spending account (FSA), which directly lowers a couple’s taxable income.

    There’s a lot to consider when it comes to taxes for newly married couples. It’s easy to overlook a detail or check the wrong box, leading to tax problems that can make you miserable for years. Get help from a professional if there’s anything about your new filing status that you’re unsure about.

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    Professional Tax Help When You Need It Most

    Getting married goes hand in hand with a lot of changes, but it doesn’t have to lead to tax confusion. Silver Tax Group has assembled a team of experienced tax attorneys who will assess your options and get you the most favorable outcome – even if that means having to defend you against IRS actions. 

    Reach out and contact us to speak to a tax expert about just married taxes. 

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