How To Choose Your Tax Filing Status Wisely For 2018 - 2019

Choosing the right tax filing status that best suits you and your needs can be an important factor that may even save you some serious cash.

Married Filing Jointly Tax Filing Status

Married tax filers have the option of filing a joint tax return together or individual separate returns. The majority of married couples choose to file a joint tax returns due to the fact that it most often offers the biggest tax advantage.

When you and your spouse file as Married Filing Jointly, your taxes will most often be lower than your combined tax would be for separate tax filing. With joint tax filing your standard deduction may be higher, and you may qualify for several other tax benefits that don't apply to other tax filing statuses.

When married tax payers file as Married Filing Jointly, both spouses report income, exemptions, credits, and deductions together on one tax return.

In turn by filing a joint tax return, you and your spouse are both responsible for each other's income tax liability equally.

This means that both spouses will be responsible for any income tax payments, penalties, and interest charges that arise from a joint return, even if one spouse reported no income.

Innocent Spouse Relief, Married Filing Jointly

The main reason a tax payer may want to file separate when married is to protect themselves from the possibility that your spouse is falsifying or omitting tax return data for which you do not want to be liable. The option around this if you did file a joint return is to claim innocent spouse relief.  You may qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief if you filed a joint return but believe you are not responsible for some of your spouse's tax liability.

The option to request innocent spouse relief may relieve some spouses of the responsibility for paying tax, interest, and penalties under certain circumstances.

Should your spouse (or former spouse) have improperly reported items or omitted important information on your joint tax return without your knowledge, you could be relived of you liability to the consequences.

Generally, the tax payments, interest, and penalties that qualify for innocent spouse relief can only be collected from your spouse (or former spouse).

However, both spouses are individually and jointly responsible for any amount of income tax, interest, or penalties that do not qualify for innocent spouse relief.

The IRS will collect any amounts due from either or both spouses (or former spouse), wherever they find funds available for collection or confiscation.

How To File as Married Filing Jointly?

Married Filing Jointly tax filing status can be claimed on any of the 3 main tax return forms including: 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ.

What Is Needed To Qualify for Married Filing Jointly?

You can use the Married Filing Jointly filing status if you meet the following conditions:

  1. You were married on the last day of the tax year being filed.
    • Your marriage status for tax purposes is determined by what your marriage status is on the last day of the tax year according to state law.
    • If you were unmarried, divorced, or legally separated (according to state law) on December 31, then you are considered unmarried for tax purposes.
      • There is an exception to this rule for the death of a spouse.
  2. You and your spouse have both agreed to file a joint tax return.

You can file a joint tax return even if one spouse had no income.

You are considered unmarried even if you were not divorced or legally separated at the end of the year if all of the following apply.

  1. You lived apart from your spouse for the last 6 months of the year.
    • (Temporary absences excluded, (business, school, military service, vacation, job travel, etc.)
  2. You are filing a separate tax return from your spouse.
  3. You paid over half the cost for home up-keep during the tax year.
  4. Your home was the main home for more than half the year for your child, stepchild, or foster child .

If your spouse died during the year, you're still considered married. Plus: you may qualify to file as Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child for the next two years.

More Tax Filing Tips For Married Filing Jointly

Nonresident Alien joint tax filing: Generally, joint tax filing may only be used by married couples that reside in the U.S. However, there is an exception: If one spouse was a nonresident alien (or dual-status alien who was married to a U.S. citizen or resident alien) prior to the end of the year "December 31", the couple may use the married filing jointly tax filing status. With a joint tax return, the nonresident spouse is treated as U.S. resident for the entire tax year.

Legally married same-sex couples (who were married where same-sex marriage is legal) may file as Married Filing Jointly, or as Married Filing Separately, just like opposite-sex married couples are required to do. With state tax filing you may file a joint state tax return so long as the state recognizes same-sex marriages.

Amending a joint tax return: If you file a joint tax return, you cannot amend that return after the tax filing deadline has passed. However, you can amend your joint tax return to file separate returns up until the tax filing deadline of April 15.

Exception: in the event of a deceased spouse, a representative for the decedent may amend a joint tax return (as filed by the surviving spouse) to a separate tax return for the decedent provided it is done within 1 year after the tax return due date, including any tax extension that was filed.