The first year you file your taxes as newlyweds, you’ll have a big decision to make. Do you want to file your taxes separately or jointly? There’s a reason 95 percent of married couples file jointly, though, and it has to do with the tax savings you’ll receive as a result. But filing together isn’t always the best option, so it’s important to consider your unique circumstances before filing. Some couples prefer to keep their finances separate, so filing jointly is a personal decision. However, it can help to at least be aware that you could save money by filing one way versus the other, depending on your yearly earnings.
Proof of Marriage
If your marital status changed during the last tax year, you may wonder if you need to pull out your marriage certificate to prove you got married. The answer to that is no. The IRS uses information from the Social Security Administration to verify taxpayer information. If you want to use your new last name on your tax returns, though, you’ll need to head over to your nearest Social Security office and update your last name with them. This is where you’ll need your marriage certificate as proof that you got married.
If you still haven’t changed your name with the Social Security Administration when you file your taxes, don’t worry. Just file your taxes under your maiden name, even if you’re filing jointly. You don’t ever have to update your last name if you choose not to do so. However, you’ll need to continue to file under your maiden name every year. If the last name on your tax paperwork doesn’t match what’s on record with the Social Security Administration, your refund could be delayed.
Married Filing Separately
Due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, it isn’t necessarily in your best interest to file jointly. This is the biggest reason to keep things separate. If both parties in a marriage earn a substantial portion of the family income, filing together won’t benefit you. Tax rates are now halved, so filing together will have you paying the same either way.
However, there are some benefits you won’t be eligible for by filing separately. Tax credits such as education, earned income and dependent care expenses will only be available if you file jointly. You’ll also face lower limits in some of the deductions you can take versus what you could claim if you filed as a couple. If you collect Social Security benefits, you’ll need to include more of your earnings in your income than if you’d filed as a couple.
Married Filing Jointly
The best case for filing jointly is when your incomes are unequal. If one spouse earns more than the other, filing separately would put that spouse into a higher tax bracket, resulting in more money being owed from that return. By filing together, the household income is taken as a whole and likely put into a lower tax bracket. If you have children, the tax credits you’ll receive as a couple will also help reduce any taxes you owe.
The best way to know which type of filing works best for your situation is to prepare your taxes both ways and see which benefits you. If you use tax preparation software, this can be done fairly easily. If you use a tax preparer, he can crunch the numbers both ways and let you know which works best. For those who prepare their taxes manually, there are online calculators that can help crunch a few numbers in advance of tax season to save some extra work.
- IRS: Name Changes & Social Security Number Matching Issues 1
- SSA: Learn What Documents You Will Need to Get a Social Security Card
- Nolo: Should Married People File Jointly or Separately?
- Bankrate: Income Tax Calculator: 1040 Tax Estimator
- Publication 501 (2019), Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information | Internal Revenue Service
Stephanie Faris has written about finance for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2013. She spent nearly a year as a ghostwriter for a credit card processing service and has ghostwritten about finance for numerous marketing firms and entrepreneurs. Her work has appeared on The Motley Fool, MoneyGeek, Ecommerce Insiders, GoBankingRates, and ThriveBy30.