Can We File Jointly if Married Less Than a Year?

by Gregory Hamel, studioD

The Internal Revenue Service recognizes four filing statuses: single, head of household, married filing jointly and married filing separately. You can file a joint tax return with your spouse if you are married less than a year as long as you were married at the end of the year.

Joint Return Basics

For a joint return, your tax filing status is determined by your marital status on the last day of the tax year. If you get married sometime during the year and remain married on the last day of the year, you can file a joint return even if you were only married a few days. If you are divorced during the year and don't remarry before the end of the year, you can't file a joint return.

Definition of Marriage

To file a joint tax return, you must be considered married on the last day of the year. You are considered married if you are married and living with your spouse, or if you are living in a common-law marriage recognized by your state or the state where you were married. If you live apart from your spouse, you can still file a joint return if you are not legally separated. If you are separated under an interlocutory degree of divorce--a decree that is not final--you can still file a joint return.

Death of a Spouse

While your tax filing status is normally based on your marriage status at the end of the year, there is an exception if your spouse dies during the year. If your spouse passes away, you are considered married for the entire year, so you can still file a joint return with the deceased spouse. If you remarry, you can file a joint return with your new spouse.


You and your spouse can choose whether to file joint returns or separate returns. If you can't agree to file a joint return, you have to file your own tax return. Filing a joint tax return is financially beneficial to most couples, especially if one partner has higher annual income than the other or if one partner does not work.

About the Author

Gregory Hamel has been a writer since September 2008 and has also authored three novels. He has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from St. Olaf College. Hamel maintains a blog focused on massive open online courses and computer programming.

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