Although the Internal Revenue Service offers disabled veterans special tax-saving benefits, most of the tax rules -- including those that govern when you can file jointly -- are the same for all taxpayers. Filing jointly on your tax return form is fairly straightforward. Before you start preparing your tax forms, you may want to ensure you're eligible for the married filing jointly status first.
“Considered Married” Requirement
Determine whether you and your wife satisfy the “considered married” requirement. You don't actually have to be married for a full tax year to file a joint return. The IRS will consider you to be married if on the last day of the tax year you're legally married and live together as a couple, if you live together as husband and wife in a recognized common law marriage, when you live apart but don't have a legal separation agreement or if you're separated under a non-final decree of divorce. As long as you fall under one of these four categories, and your wife consents, a joint return can be filed.
Filing Status and Exemptions
After you enter your names, address and both Social Security numbers at the top of the 1040 form, check the box to the left of “Married Filing Jointly.” In the next section, you'll mark the box for yourself as well as the box for your spouse. This allows you to take two personal exemptions, which (like a deduction) reduces the amount of joint taxable income you'll report on the return.
Reporting Your Joint Income
Every dollar that you and your wife earn from employment, self-employment, investments and any other source that isn't excluded or exempt from tax must be reported in the income section of your joint 1040. If you receive disability, pension or insurance payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs, or if the agency provides you with certain types of disability-related grant money, this income is tax-free and doesn't need to be reported on the joint return. For your military disability pension payments that are partially based on years of service, however, only the amounts provided because of a service-related disability are tax-free.
Deductions and Credits
As you consider each deduction and credit available on your return, remember that only you or your wife need to satisfy the eligibility requirements for it, yet you both enjoy the tax savings. For example, if you choose to itemize on Schedule A instead of taking the standard deduction, your wife gets the benefit of the deduction even if it's entirely attributed to medical expenses associated with your disability. Some of the other tax benefits that you both may benefit from because of your status as a disabled veteran include the credit for the elderly and disabled, the earned income credit and the child and dependent care credit.
Calculating Your Joint Tax Bill
One of the principle benefits of filing a joint return is that you and your wife are taxed on your combined income regardless of who earns it. This is simply because the income tax tables in the instructions to your 1040 form use the lower rates of tax on twice as much of your income as they do for married couples who each file separately.
- Internal Revenue Service: Publication 501: Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information
- Internal Revenue Service: Form 1040
- Internal Revenue Service: Publication 525: Taxable and Non-Taxable Income
- Internal Revenue Service: Publication 907: Tax Highlights for Persons with Disabilities
- Bankrate: Tax Brackets
Michael Marz has worked in the financial sector since 2002, specializing in wealth and estate planning. After spending six years working for a large investment bank and an accounting firm, Marz is now self-employed as a consultant, focusing on complex estate and gift tax compliance and planning.