Getting Married and Making Income Tax Changes

A cousin of mine got married last weekend.  She and her new husband are off on their honeymoon, celebrating the start of their new life together with a great trip.  Soon they will return home and begin to start figuring out the day-to-day changes marriage will bring to their lives, including the sharing that goes along with living under one roof and having their best friend by their side.

When it comes time for them to file their federal income tax return next year, being married will give them some different options they need to consider.  In fact, they should be making changes now in preparation for filing their federal income tax next year, even though it is still several months away.

Following are some of the changes a married couple should evaluate in filing their federal income tax return together for the first time.

Filing Status

Marriage gives two individuals to make use of two different filing statuses that are not available to individuals.  Married Filing Jointly means the couples tax returns effectively become one, with both individuals filing on the same tax return.  Married Filing Separately means the two still file separate tax return.

So which filing status is right for a married couple?  Like many things in life, it depends.  If both spouses continue to work, being married can throw a portion of your income into a higher tax bracket when the two incomes are combined.  Even so, Married Filing Jointly will typically give a couple a lower tax liability than if they opt to choose Married Filing Separately.

In the end, the most accurate way to determine which filing status is better for your situation is to calculate your federal income tax using both options and then choose the option that has you owing the least amount of tax.

Deductions

The IRS allows each taxpayer to use the standard or itemized deductions.  A married couple likewise has the option of choosing between these two types of deductions.

Two individuals who filed their tax returns separately may not have had enough itemized deductions to give them a better benefit than the standard deduction provided.  However, if the married couple has new expenses they did not have when they were single, such as choosing to purchase a home or buying a new car, their itemized deductions may now be high enough to make a change worth their time.

Using itemized deductions means you need to keep track of your qualified spending in the various categories.  While you should receive Form 1099s for certain expenditures like interest paid on a mortgage and property taxes, other itemized deductions like medical expenses, car registration fees, and medical expenses may be solely on you to track.

W-4 Withholding

Since getting married can change your tax bracket and spending, it is wise for one or both spouses to consider updating their W-4.  The W-4 is a form filed with an employer that instruct them on how much income tax to withhold from each paycheck, to make sure you have sent enough to the IRS during the year.  If you underwithhold by too much, the IRS may assess your penalties and interest.

Information Updates

Getting married can mean a new address for one or both spouses and a change to a spouse’s last name.  it is important to ensure that relevant places, such as employers, banks, and the Social Security Office are provided this new information.  This makes sure you receive all the tax documentation you will need when it comes time to file for the first time as a married couple.  And having your name correct on the various forms you receive can make the filing process far smoother than if there are discrepancies.

Tax Attorney Assistance

The easiest way to be sure you make the best choices about your taxes now that you are married is to speak with a tax attorney.  A tax attorney can step you through the pros and cons for the different effect tax laws have on a married couple and evaluate the options that are best for your situation.  After all, a tax attorney’s job is to know the tax law so that the average individual does not have to.

If you are ready to get help from a tax attorney, you may speak with one by completing the form on this web site.  A tax attorney will get in touch with you to answer your questions about your taxes.  The first conversation is free of charge and does not obligate you to anything further, so get the help you need today.

by Mark Johnston

Mark has been a contributor to legal web sites related to bankruptcy, tax, and criminal law since 2011. He has an Accounting degree from Texas A&M University.