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Joint or Separate IRS Filing Differences

As a married individual, you have two status choices when filing your tax return, married filing jointly or married filing separately. Deciding which status to file under can be confusing. The IRS recommends individuals enter the tax information under both filing statuses to determine which status is most beneficial for your family circumstances. If married individuals disagree about deductions or other items concerning filing taxes, they must use the married filing separately status.

Joint Return

On a married filing jointly return, you will enter yours and your spouse's income; you can also combine the allowable deductible expenses. If you are under the age of 65, have no children and are not blind, you may be eligible to file a 1040EZ form. In other cases, you need to file a 1040A or 1040 form to determine the tax liability for your family use the married filing jointly column on the tax table. Generally, filing under this status results in higher deductions and tax benefits.

Separate Return

Certain tax rules apply if you and your spouse choose to file separately. If you file separately, your alternative minimum tax is half what it would be if you filed jointly. The adoption credit, education related credits and earned income credit cannot be taken on a separately filed return. Additionally, dependent and childcare credits are not available. If you file separately, the social security and disability income you are required to include in your taxes may be more than required for a joint return. You will only be able to claim half of the itemized deduction , standard deduction, personal exemptions, child tax credit and retirement savings credits. Finally, only $4,000 of the first-time home buyer's credit is available to claim as well as your capital-loss deduction will be limited to $1,500.

Important Information

You can choose to file jointly even if your spouse died during the tax year. You may also file a joint return even if only one spouse has an income. If you choose to file separately, you still must include your spouse's name and social security or individual taxpayer identification number on your tax forms. If you and our spouse are divorced on the final day of the tax year you are filing for, you may not file a joint return.

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