Should you and your spouse file taxes jointly or separately?

Married couples have the option to file jointly or separately on their federal income tax returns. The IRS strongly encourages most couples to file joint tax returns by extending several tax breaks to those who file together. In the vast majority of cases, it's best for married couples to file jointly, but there may be a few instances when it's better to submit separate returns.

Advantages of filing jointly

There are many advantages to filing a joint tax return with your spouse. The IRS gives joint filers one of the largest standard deductions each year, allowing them to deduct a significant amount of their income immediately.

Couples who file together can usually qualify for multiple tax credits such as the:

Joint filers mostly receive higher income thresholds for certain taxes and deductions—this means they can earn a larger amount of income and potentially qualify for certain tax breaks.

Consequences of filing your tax returns separately

On the other hand, couples who file separately receive few tax considerations. Separate tax returns may give you a higher tax with a higher tax rate. The standard deduction for separate filers is far lower than that offered to joint filers.

  • In 2018, married filing separately taxpayers only receive a standard deduction of $12,000 compared to the $24,000 offered to those who filed jointly.
  • If you file a separate return from your spouse, you are automatically disqualified from several of the tax deductions and credits mentioned earlier.
  • In addition, separate filers are usually limited to a smaller IRA contribution deduction.
  • They also cannot take the deduction for student loan interest.
  • The capital loss deduction limit is $1,500 each when filing separately, instead of $3,000 on a joint return.

When you might file separately

In rare situations, filing separately may help you save on your tax return.

  • For example, if you or your spouse has a large amount of out-of-pocket medical expenses to claim and since the IRS only allows you to deduct the amount of these costs that exceeds 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) in 2017 and 2018, it can be difficult to claim most of your expenses if you and your spouse have a high AGI.
  • Filing separate returns in such a situation may be beneficial if it allows you to claim more of your available medical deductions by applying the threshold to only one of your incomes.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, all taxpayers may deduct only the amount of the total unreimbursed allowable medical care expenses for the year that exceeds 10% of their adjusted gross income.

Deciding which status to use

The best way to find out if you should file jointly or separately with your spouse is to prepare the tax return both ways. Double check your calculations and then look at the net refund or balance due from each method. If you use TurboTax to prepare your return, we'll do the calculation for you, and recommend the filing status that gives you the biggest tax savings.

Brought to you by TurboTax.com

Tax Tips for the Blind

Anyone whose field of vision falls at or below 20 degrees, who wears corrective glasses but whose vision is 20/200 or less in his best eye, or who has no eyesight at all, meets the legal definition of being blind and is eligible for certain tax deductions.

Read More

Brought to you by TurboTax.com

What Is a 1099-G Tax Form?

The most common use of the 1099-G is to report unemployment compensation as well as any state or local income tax refunds you received that year.

Read More

Brought to you by TurboTax.com

Video: What Are Itemized Tax Deductions?

Itemized tax deductions can help save you even more money during tax season if your deductions exceed the standard amount. Learn about itemizing your tax deductions with help from TurboTax in this video on annual tax filing.

Read More

Brought to you by TurboTax.com

Filing Tax Form 2441: Child and Dependent Care Expenses

There are a number of eligibility requirements you must satisfy before potentially receiving a child or dependent care credit, so it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the rules before preparing Form 2441.

Read More

Brought to you by TurboTax.com
Read Full Story
Your resource on tax filing
Tax season is here! Check out the Tax Center on AOL Finance for all the tips and tools you need to maximize your return.