Everything You Should Know About Filing Taxes Together For The First Time

by Tamila McDonald
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Filing Taxes Together For The First Time

While filing your taxes together for the first time after getting married is potentially an exciting milestone, not every couple understands precisely what it means for them financially. As a result, it’s wise to consider a few points before you begin your paperwork. Here’s what you should know about filing taxes together for the first time.

You’re Eligible to If You Married No Later Than Dec. 31, 2022

Some couples aren’t certain whether they’re eligible to file their taxes jointly if they got married in 2022 but were single for part of most of the year. Technically, you can file your 2022 return in 2023 together as long as the marriage took place no later than December 31, 2022.

If you weren’t married until 2023 – even if the ceremony took place before the April 18, 2023 filing deadline – you have to file your 2022 tax year return separately this year. However, you’ll be eligible to file jointly next year, so keep that in mind.

Name Changes Need to Be Reported to the Social Security Administration Before Filing

If you took your spouse’s last name after getting married or they took yours, make sure the name is updated with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Otherwise, when you file your taxes using the new married name, it won’t match the SSA records. If that happens, your tax refund gets held by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) until the problem is resolved.

Alternatively, the person who wants to change their name can file using their married name instead. However, it’s usually best to go the other route if the name-changing spouse’s employer has already updated the person’s name on official tax documents. That way, everything is aligned, decreasing the odds that there will be any issues during the tax return submission and review process.

Understand That Filing Together Isn’t Your Only Option

While filing jointly is advantageous in many cases, newlyweds also need to understand that there are other options. Married couples can file their taxes separately, and there are situations where that’s a wiser move.

In some cases, filing jointly prevents you from accessing specific tax credits or deductions, ones that you can use if you file separately instead. As a result, it’s best to examine your tax situation from both angles before choosing a direction.

Often, figuring out whether filing jointly or separately is the better move is complex. As a result, you may want to prepare documents both ways (without actually submitting them to the IRS) to see if there’s a benefit to choosing a particular option. You can also consult with a tax professional for additional insights, as they’ll be able to help you determine which approach results in the best overall outcome.

Know That Your Standard Deduction Is Higher

When you’re married and filing jointly, the standard deduction for couples is $24,000, far higher than the $12,000 for single filers. While this seems like a boon initially, it can mean you aren’t capturing certain deductions you otherwise would. Generally, itemized deductions work in your favor if the total exceeds the standard deduction. Since the standard deduction is higher for couples, that could mean missing out on a deduction you’d capture if you were single or filing separately.

Whether that makes filing separately worthwhile depends on your unique situation. As mentioned above, it’s best to explore the option, allowing you to determine as a couple which approach is best.

Filing Jointly Means More Tax Credits

Generally speaking, married couples gain access to more potential tax credits by filing jointly than if they file separately. Some examples include the Earned Income Tax Credit, American Opportunity Credit, and Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.

Often, this comes as a surprise to couples who recently married, as the tax credits involved are also available to single filers and heads of household. However, if you are married and file separately, that prevents you from being eligible simply due to using that specific filing status.

You Save Money on Your Tax Filing When You File Together

Whether you use a tax professional or tax software to file your taxes, it costs couples less if you file jointly. Filing jointly means you’ll only need to prepare and submit a single return. As a result, you’re only dealing with one filing and preparation fee for the pair of you.

In comparison, filing separately means two preparation and filing fees. As a result, simply getting your returns ready and sending them to the IRS costs you more. The only exception is situations where couples qualify for fee-free tax filings. In that case, as long as you’re eligible for that deal when filing separately, there is no cost difference.

It’s Easier to File Jointly in Most Cases

Comparatively speaking, filing jointly is easier than filing separately. When you file separately, you have to make decisions about who takes specific deductions, such as who is claiming a child as a dependent. In some cases, the answer isn’t intuitive, which makes choosing difficult.

Additionally, if you file separately, you either both have to take the standard deduction, or you both have to itemize. You can’t have one spouse choose to itemize while the other takes the standard deduction. As a result, it can make the process more complex, particularly if a spouse that wouldn’t usually itemize now needs to use that strategy.

However, that doesn’t mean the extra effort isn’t worthwhile. There are situations where filing separately leaves the household in a better overall financial position. If you’re concerned about the work involved, you can always get help from a tax professional, as they’ll be able to guide you through the process.

Can you think of anything else couples need to should know about filing taxes together for the first time? Did you run into challenges when you filed your taxes together for the first time with your spouse and want to help others avoid those missteps? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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