Question

Can my spouse and I change our filing status from married filing jointly to married filing separately?

Answer

Yes, even if you’ve filed jointly for years, you can change your filing status to married filing separately on a new return whenever you wish. You won’t pay a penalty for changing your filing status. However, when choosing your filing status, you should calculate your federal and state returns using each filing status before making any changes. Then, you can see which return results in the larger refund or the smaller balance due.

If you change your filing status from joint to separate, you’ll usually pay more tax. That’s because many of the following items are reduced or not allowed when married filing separately:

  • Credits
  • Deductions
  • Exclusions

So, you should do your research before changing your filing status from joint to separate.

What adjusted gross income (AGI) amount do I use if I filed jointly with a different spouse in 2020 or my filing status has changed from 2020?

If you change your filing status from single last year to married filing jointly this year and you’re being asked for your prior-year AGI, you should use your individual adjusted gross income (AGI) from your respective 2020 returns. So, add together your 2020 AGI and your spouse’s 2020 AGI to fill out the AGI line on your joint 2021 return.

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