Tips for Filing Jointly for The First Time
Editor’s Note: Here’s a few dos and don’ts on filing jointly for the first time after marriage that you might want to get squared away ASAP!
You’ve said “I do” to the love of your life, and, now, for better or worse, you have to file your taxes married for the first time!
Deciding how to file taxes as a couple can be difficult – as is the first time you do anything new.
The first step is figuring out your filing status as a couple. Your options are:
“Married Filing Jointly” or “Married Filing Separately.”
Benefits of Using Joint Filing Status
Most couples find it best to file jointly for a few reasons:
- The tax rate is usually lower.
- You can claim a higher standard deduction.
- You can claim education tax credits if you were a student.
- You can deduct student loan interest.
- You can claim deductions for children and childcare expenses.
- You can file for the Earned Income Tax Credit (if you qualify).
- Some deductions (like medical expenses) are based on whether your expenses exceed a certain percentage of your income. By filing jointly, you may be able to meet that deduction requirement.
Should Every Couple File Taxes Jointly?
Every person’s tax situation is unique, and there may be many reasons to file taxes jointly and some to file separately (like if your new spouse owes child support or back taxes).
Talk to a qualified tax pro to see what option is best for your new family’s situation.
Questions to Review with Your New Spouse Before Filing
Aside from the big “how to file” question, you’ll discover there are many questions you haven’t considered when it comes to your newlywed status and taxes. Some questions are things you should know about your spouse before you’re married. But there are some things you will want to discuss before you have an awkward argument with your spouse in front of your tax preparer.
- Did you sell or buy a home?
- Did you add any dependents when you married?
- Do you or your spouse have unpaid tax debts or student loan defaults?
- Does your spouse owe or pay alimony or child support?
- Did your spouse have gambling wins or losses?
- Did you contribute to political campaigns?
- Did you have any capital gains/losses?
You’ll also want to discuss how you’ll receive a tax refund if you’ll be getting one and what to do with it.
Paperwork Adds Up When Filing Together for the First Time
When you’re filing taxes married, there is twice as much paperwork, so be sure to get it all – W-2s, 1099s, medical and child care expenses, charitable contributions, business expenses, capital gains/losses and more. Gather all your information early in tax season so you’re completely ready to file.
After you’ve filed, take some time to evaluate where the process was a bit rocky and establish good money habits for the rest of the year.
For example, if your tax refund was large, you may want to think about adjusting your tax withholding to keep more money in your wallet. If you had to pay in, you should make adjustments to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Establish a filing system for all your important financial and tax documents. And make sure you both know where that information is kept.
Talk with with your spouse about monetary decisions that can affect your tax liability for next year. Will you have a baby? Go back and finish your college degree? Pay off debt? Start investing? What charities will you support? Will you be moving or buying a house?
Knowing the answers to how to file taxes after marriage will help you avoid any surprises at tax time next year.
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