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William Perez

When Does it Make Sense for Married Couples to File Separately?

By February 13, 2009

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Married couples generally have three choices when it comes to picking their filing status. They can file a joint tax return, reporting their combined income and deductions. Or they can file two separate tax returns, with each return reporting the income and deductions for each spouse. There's also a special provision for estranged spouses; if one or both spouses has a dependent, and they have lived apart for at least the last six months of the year, then they could file using the more advantageous head of household status.

So, naturally, the question often arises as to which filing status is better? One reader emailed me to ask,

"Ok, now for my situation: I want to understand the differences between filing Married vs. filing Married Separately. Prior to this year my status was always filing Single. Got married this past year and need to understand the larger implications. We have 2 houses we need to claim and I am a current MBA student and will need to file deductions for tuition paid out of pocket."
In this situation, filing a joint return will produce the least amount of federal tax liability. That's because there's a long list of deductions that are denied under the married filing separate status. Most important, separate filers are not eligible for any of the education tax breaks, such as the tuition and fees deduction, and the Hope or Lifetime Learning tax credits. And since this reader is an MBA student, the couple will likely be able to take advantage of these tax breaks on their jointly filed return.

But there's another aspect that should be kept in mind. By filing jointly, you accept joint and several liability for the taxes. So that means if you file a return with a balance due, both spouses be held responsible for paying it, even if the balance is the result of only one person's actions. They will also both be responsible if there's an audit down the road. With that in mind, I recommend filing separately when one spouse owes but the other would get a refund, or where one spouse is cheating on their taxes and the other rightly wants nothing to do with that. I also recommend filing separately if the spouses are estranged, when they are contemplating or in the processing of divorcing, or when they simply cannot agree on how to report their income and deductions.

I've seen these situations often enough where taking a bit of the tax hit now by filing a separate return can actually prevent years of heartache down the road.

February 16, 2009 at 4:27 pm
(1) Chris says:

I am a practicing tax preparer and was wondering about your opinion on the injured spouse form. Married filing jointly is advantageous to all couples, unless one of them has debt as described above, however, wouldn’t the form for an injured spouse help eliminate the debt of the spouse from reducing the amount of the refund? I ask because I always try to do what will be most beneficial for the client, and married filing separate seldom is.

February 16, 2009 at 7:03 pm
(2) taxes says:

Chris, you make an excellent point. In general, filing jointly is usually more advantageous. However I was thinking of a very specific incident that I encountered last year. A couple filed jointly (and their tax was lower) but they still owed tax. Subsequently one spouse skipped the country and now the other spouse is stuck paying the tax bill. In other words, if a couple is thinking about separating, it might be worthwhile to consider filing separately just to get separate tax liabilities. And in this particular situation, the IRS has been denying innocent spouse relief, which is coming as an unfortunate shock to us.

April 7, 2011 at 9:04 am
(3) Brenda Holliman says:

I recently went through a divorce after having been married for more than 30 years. My ex took care of our finances as well as taxes. He was an auditor,finance director,assistant city manager and is a ph.d in business management. I raised our children and trusted him. He didn’t pay three years of taxes which I didn’t know about until receiving a letter from the IRS and State during my divorce proceedings. I applied through the innocent spouse division of the State and IRS. An amazing amount of information to pull together and prepare. Right up to the date of my final divorce decree the State granted my being given relief. The IRS has not. I am preparing to have an arbitration interview in the near future and am hoping that they will grant me relief as well. My ex even provided them a letter stating that I am not responsible for those tax years and that I was not privy to his decisions regarding our taxes and finances. I do not have much faith in the IRS presently because the Federal Gov. is in deep financial trouble and no one is going to be given any consideration-whatsoever. Every situation is very unique and different. I could hardly believe that the State of CA granted my relief and I am posting this as an encouragement to others who may find themselves in a similar situation- It is worth the effort. The Innocent Spouse division of the State of California were very thoughtful and kind and helpful as well………..Good Luck.

April 16, 2011 at 9:56 am
(4) TERRY says:

If you live in a community property state like california filing injured spouce form even if your spouce owed money before you were married they will take half even if you were the only person who had income i went thru that two years back they took all of my refund i was the only one who had income and the debt was 15 years before we got married best bet this year for me is to file married filing seperate i shoild not be affected

February 2, 2010 at 3:21 pm
(5) Anita says:

I have a married couple who owns a house, have their own children as well as out of work inlaws/kids living with them. Can they file separately, so that one can claim the house/kids and the other the inlaws/kids?

January 24, 2011 at 7:45 pm
(6) William Perez says:

Anita, the couple may file either separately or jointly. If they file separately, both must itemize or both must take the standard deduction. Thus if they file separately and one spouse takes all the deductions for the house, then the other spouse will have to itemize too (even if his or her itemized deductions is zero). Further, if they live in a community property state, each spouse must separate the income and deductions according to their state’s community property laws. Alternatively, they may file jointly.

January 24, 2011 at 3:55 pm
(7) Kathleen says:

I have a guy friend who got married in June 2010..and filed for divorce on October 2010. Their divorce is not until March. She wants him to filing jointly..but he’s going to owe the IRS. He told her this. So that would make her half responsible for the amount owed to the IRS…correct?

January 24, 2011 at 7:49 pm
(8) William Perez says:

With a joint tax return, each spouse is held individually responsible for the accuracy of the tax return and for the payment of the joint tax liability. If they file separately, the spouses will be held responsible for the accuracy of their own separate return and the payment of their separate tax liability. Whether this is advantageous or not depends on the situation. From my own experience, if a couple is contemplating separation or divorce it’s usually better to file separately, even if it’s more expensive, since that reduces the risk exposure of one spouse to the financial matters relating to the other spouse.

February 27, 2011 at 11:31 pm
(9) SHIRLEY says:


January 30, 2011 at 1:24 am
(10) Jack Kelly says:

I am retired on social security with a small pension and income from a property I own prior to marriage. I have appropriate income tax taken out of my pension check. My wife works plus has a public employee’s pension from earlier service. She has had about 5% of the gross income of $40,000 withheld from these two sources for income tax purposes. I had advised her several times to increase the withholding amount, and I am concerned that if we file jointly again that I may be responsible for a considerable tax obligation she refuses to take responsibility for. If I file separately, am I certain that I will not be held in any way responsible for the taxes due on her earned income? I am considering separation. [My wife's gross income is slightly lower than mine. I see none of her income. I pay 75% of our mortgage, taxes, insurance, utilities, and food. She pays 25%].

February 3, 2011 at 1:37 am
(11) Doug Kruger says:

Jack, you are wise to seek a lawyer now even while married. I’m in a divorce following the same or similiar situation, a 2 to 1 larger income than my (ex)wife, and left with paying a portion of her taxes she never had witheld during the tax year. So I kept the returns. Now her attorney has advised her to file seperate since she is is getting all the assets and I’m ending up with all the liablities and risk. I”m much younger, not retired, and have minimum of 10 years income earning potential and shes ready to give up and retire now. You could also start filing separate now and make her pay her own now, teach her a lesson! Sorry, I”m bitter about it after 6 years of struggle to build a finacial empire with a dead weight spouse who is supported by extended family attitudes like “let him support you”, and ” you don’t need to go to school to get a better paying job”, and “take him for all he’s worth”. YOu’re right, it’s not financially fair. And by the way its not very fair in the love department either! It ruined my marriage.

February 3, 2011 at 12:09 pm
(12) Jenn says:

My husband and I are married. We have a house, Child, Daycare expenses. This year will be the first year we get close to nothing back because of how we had deductions at work. Can I let him claim house, child, daycare, file the taxes, get the refund and then file mine with no deductions and use part of the refund to pay what I will owe? If we file together we will prob get like 50 bucks back, if we do the option i described it will be close to 500. Is the option I am purposing illegal? or is it just a way around tax law? I just want to do the right thing, without owing. Also, we bought our house in 2008 and got the 7500 credit that has to be repaid over 15 yrs. We refinanced in October, do we still have to pay that back? yes right?

February 18, 2011 at 10:48 am
(13) Karen says:

My husband and I are separating, but we still live in the same house. I am planning to move & attend college in the fall. Should we file our taxes jointly or separately? I want to file separately because I believe I will get more money for school; however, there seem to be a lot of drawbacks to filing separately. We have one minor son.

February 24, 2011 at 2:14 pm
(14) Rosemarie says:

I am currently engaged. My fiance and his ex owe back taxes. If we get married this year, how should we file for taxes next year so I won’t end up paying for what they owe, since I always get tax refunds? Please advise.

March 10, 2011 at 8:35 am
(15) Linda says:

my husband and I have always filed jointly. However, this last year I retired, and he is not. Our AGI this year is $190K, $140K of which was my husband’s. Because of that amount, our tax preparer says that we cannot deduct our son’s college at all, nor any of our medical expenses. Does it make sense to file separately and he claims our son?

March 10, 2011 at 10:19 pm
(16) William Perez says:

Deductions and tax credits related to college are not available for couples who file separately. They also aren’t available to higher income people either. The only other aspect I can think of to get some benefit out of the college expenses is to see if you son qualifies to be independent, and thus he would take his own deduction or credit for the tuition expense.

July 27, 2011 at 10:22 pm
(17) Melia says:

I have been married since march this year. My husband moved in AFTER we got married (29th march 2011). I have been working for the past 1.5yrs and earnt $21,000 and my husband has only been working since march 2011 (started 1 week prior to getting married).
I have 2 children NOT to my husband who live with us.
Should be file our tax TOGETHER or SEPERATE?

November 3, 2011 at 2:34 pm
(18) Jazmin says:

I am thinking about getting married but I do not want to be responsible for my boyfriend’s child support debt. He has been unemployed for a few months so he is behind on paying and I was told that if we get married that will become my debt as well. Is this correct? would I just have to file my taxes separately?

Thank you.

January 3, 2012 at 2:46 pm
(19) Wendy says:

I got married in October of 2011. For the past seven years, as a single parent of two, I claimed head of household and received money back. My new husband has requested to file a joint return but I don’t feel that would be financially benefical for us. He has two children and has mortgage interest to file. Other than that, he has no deductions and claimed more exemptions through the year than he will on his year end taxes. Since we have only been married for two months, can I claim head of household on mine and he claim head of household on his? Or will we have to both file “married filing separately”?

January 5, 2012 at 12:13 am
(20) William Perez says:

Wendy, since you were married in October, you are considered married for the whole year. If you reside together, you’re only options are Married-Filing-Jointly or Married-Filing-Separately.

January 19, 2012 at 9:34 pm
(21) Beth Vandenberg says:

My spouse was in jail for 7 months in 2011. He has court fines that can be pulled from tax refunds. He is out, with us, but may not be in the near future. I’m thinking filing separately will protect my tax refund from being charged with his fines – correct?

January 21, 2012 at 10:05 am
(22) Jamie says:

Me and my husband got married Nov 20th. Do we need to file our taxes together for the following year since we were only married a month in a half?? I have a son from previous marriage. Wich way would better fit us.

January 24, 2012 at 12:39 am
(23) William Perez says:

Jamie, if you are married as of December 31st, then you are married for the whole year for tax purposes. Your options are to file jointly or separately.

January 25, 2012 at 10:58 pm
(24) Leticia says:

HELP I recently got married on 11 11 11 and its now almost 3 months i would perfer to fiel seperatly this last time but dont know if Im allowed I do have one child 14 and my husband has no kids he didnt have steady job in beginning of year and 2weeks before we got married he landed a Great job with lots more pay ..

January 28, 2012 at 4:14 pm
(25) William Perez says:

Leticia, you can always file as married-filing-separately. There’s nothing wrong about that, and you can decide each year whether to file jointly or separately with your spouse.

February 6, 2012 at 1:05 pm
(26) paul says:

hi. I been always filling jointly. My wife worked last year and never payed federal tax, and i did pay all my taxes. Last year we had same situation and we end up paying back. Should we fill out separetly this year?

February 10, 2012 at 10:11 am
(27) Sophie says:

My sister has been separated from her husband for 2 years now in Texas. They have always filed a join tax return w/their 3 children, but this year he refuses to file with her and he doesn’t give her any financial support. Since they are separated and can prove it, can my sister file as Head of Household and claim all her kids OR does she have no choice but to file as Married filing Separately? He said he is going to file as single. Is this allowed? Thank you for your help!!!

February 16, 2012 at 8:35 pm
(28) Patti says:

My husband is self emplpyed contractor, I work and pay monthly taxes with 2 exemptions, he wants me to file as married Filing Jointly, and he pays quarterly taxes, but I feel like I’m getting the short end of the stick by paying my share and he is using mine and then pays what’s left. Would it be beneficial for me to file as married, filing separate?

February 18, 2012 at 3:34 pm
(29) Darlene Henkener says:

I married for the second time in Dec., 2010. At the time, I own a home and had shared annunities with my deceased husband;therefore I was advised to file separately. I have until recently not changed my name, my name is NOT ON THE DEED TO HIS HOME, WE do not share bank accounts, we do not benefit from eithers income. tHE SECOND HUSBAND PAYS ALL THE REAL ESTATE TAXES, AND UTILITIES. wE DO NOT EVEN SHARE HEALTH INSURANCES. I have my own investments’which he does not share. Would it not be best if we continue to file separate?

February 19, 2012 at 9:49 pm
(30) William Perez says:

Darlene, married couples may choose to file separately or may choose to file jointly. It’s a choice in either case, and there are no wrong answers.

February 20, 2012 at 8:59 am
(31) Ashutosh says:

My wife works part time as a substitute teacher and gets paid for days she works. She has retirement benefits from work but since she worked just about 30 days in 2011, the total contribution to retirement account is insignificant. We have traditional IRAs for both of us and we’ve put in $5000 each. We don’t qualify for Roth as the income is above the limit. We’re not getting any deductions on our traditional IRAs since my wife has a retirement account at work.
If we file separately, can we get the IRA deductions on at least one of the returns?

February 20, 2012 at 4:52 pm
(32) Jim says:

I was just married in October. However we still lived in our respective homes through January. She owns and I own. Do we file married filing jointly or married filing separately? Can we both deduct home mortgage interest and taxes?
Our biggest deductions are our homes (interest and property taxes)

February 27, 2012 at 11:58 am
(33) Lee says:

My husband was unemployed for 2011 and when he got fired in December 2010, he had borrowed money from his 401k. Had 15K in his 401k and used all that money. He received unemployment and they took out 10 percent. I don’t want to file Married with him for my taxes because I’m afraid that his financial issues will leave me with owning the government money. I want to file Married by filed separately so that if I do receive an income back I will be able to send my daughter to summer camp. Since that’s what we had used the money in the past for.

February 29, 2012 at 2:49 am
(34) Maria says:

I got married in May 2011 and filled jointly… last year i applied for financial aid with my 2010 tax return with my income of less than $15,000 and received a pell grant of $5,500… I never attended school but decided to do so like a week ago and submitted all of my information again with with my married jointly tax return of a total income gross amount of $28, 864 and only received a pell grant of $2,100.. His income was $17,468 and mine was only $11, 396 .Would it be better to file jointly or separate for school related purposes such ass receiving more money through a pell grant and more money for school that i wouldn’t have to pay back

February 29, 2012 at 11:52 am
(35) William Perez says:

Maria, you may want to direct your question to your school’s financial aid department. There’s an article over at About College Savings on how pell grants are determined.

March 1, 2012 at 2:01 am
(36) Bette says:

My husband and I got married last summer. I have a lot of graduate school loan debt. He owns a very valuable rental property with his parents that we don’t live in. I am worried that if we file jointly, his property will effect my monthly loan payments. They are very high as it is. Should we file separately or together?

March 2, 2012 at 1:46 pm
(37) ann says:

I got married in 2011. My husband was living in his own house before we met and I was living in my own condo. Being Single, we each use to get a refund of about $4000. Since there are two properties involved, do you think it would be best to file married filing separate so we can each claim our own housing expenses? Currently, my sister is living in my condo.

March 26, 2012 at 5:33 pm
(38) Emily says:

My husband and I got married on Dec. 17th. Should we file our taxes separately because we were single and maintaining separate households for most of the year or does it not matter?

March 27, 2012 at 1:46 am
(39) William Perez says:

Emily, if you are married on the last day of the year (December 31st) then you are married for the entire year, at least for tax purposes. Your filing status options are married-filing-jointly, married-filing-separately, or head of household if you have a closely-related dependent and you did not live with your spouse for the last six months of the year.

March 28, 2012 at 2:12 pm
(40) Trish says:

My fiance’s divorce was final this month but he has been seperated from his wife for 4 years and lived with elderly parents to help take care of them during that time. His ex cheats on her taxes and he does not want to be held accountable for her misgivings. Can he file married filing seperately?

March 29, 2012 at 3:57 am
(41) William Perez says:

Yes, Trish, your fiancee can file separately. In fact, that’s exactly what I would recommend in his situation.

April 5, 2012 at 12:45 pm
(42) Carol says:

Hi – I’ve been married for 4 years have 2 toddlers and have not seen a penny in return since I had them. My husband owes almost $100,000 in back taxes and penalties. We are going to separate. My question is can I file separate taxes and clair head of house hold and my kids if we don’t live together?

April 6, 2012 at 12:39 am
(43) William Perez says:

Carol, you can always file separately and in fact that’s what I would recommend in your situation. Whether you qualify for head of household depends on your living situation. You need to live in a separate residence apart from your husband for at least the last six months of the year to qualify for Head of Household.

April 11, 2012 at 10:26 am
(44) Shelly says:

Hi — my husband and I have been married six years and seem to always have to pay in. He is divorced and has two kids, of which, he gets to claim one. This child turned 17 in November so we lost the Child Tax Credit of $1,000, but still get his exemption. The only other major deduction we have is mortgage interest. Between State and Federal, we are looking at owing about $1,100. I make quite a bit more money than my husband, and also work a part-time job. Do you think it would make sense for us to file separately with me claiming the mortgage interest, and him claiming his son? I have another question as it relates to the 17 year old, and am not sure if this is the correct forum for this or not, but if he turns 18 in November (and will still be in high school), and my husband pays support all the way through December, will we still be able to claim him next year? Thanks for any advice you can give!

April 16, 2012 at 7:25 am
(45) Tim says:

My wife and I were married earlier this year. I have tax liability from years prior to our marriage. If we file jointly, will that make her partially liable for my back taxes? Thanks.

May 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm
(46) Jlp says:

My fiance and are are debating how we will need to file taxes next year. He owes almost $30,000 in Child Support Arrears… He does not claim either child, as they are claimed by their mothers. Should we file Married Filing Separately, and take the tax hit? And if we file that way, should we both have more money taken out for taxes throughout the year, as I’ve always received a tax refund and want to continue to. Do you also recommend that I file an Injured Spouse form as well, so that my soon to be husband’s debt does not become my responsibility?

Thank you for your guidance.

June 20, 2012 at 9:17 pm
(47) Carrie says:

I was married for 26 years, my husband is a CPA and has a masters in taxation. Now divorcing, he moved out in Feb, I worked for him for free, but he took the least out for taxes, when I quit working for him in Feb., he didn’t give me anything to live on, except made the house payment, I moved out in July and lived on credit cards that were in my name for the rest of that year. He still filed jointly and stupid me signed it – and got a refund, but never gave me any of the refund, and I put myself through beauty school at my own expense. Should I amend the return and file separately?

June 21, 2012 at 2:58 pm
(48) William Perez says:

Sorry to hear of your situation, Carrie. Unfortunately, you only have until the original deadline (April 15th most years) to amend a tax return to switch from joint to separate filing status.

July 19, 2012 at 4:04 pm
(49) Nancy says:

I have a friend who has been separated from her husband (but never legally filed any paperwork) and has been filing joint returns with him. She is the only one with any claimed income, he has been living with his parents and doing odd jobs but never claiming any income nor paying any support for their 2 children. Can she be get in trouble for filing a joint return or, since they are still legally married, is it okay? She is worried since she is now filing for child support.

July 29, 2012 at 9:11 pm
(50) C says:

I want to get married but my fiancÚ is finishing college and I make over 100k per year and I have hefty school loans to pay back. Will we have to pay tuition out of pocket for him and lose his financial aid if we get married before he finifshes school because I earn money?

October 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm
(51) Englebert says:

Hi, Many thanks for your website.
As at end of December 2011 my wife and I were married; we separated in March 2012; we live overseas (i.e. we left the USA in mid 2011); She is a US citizen, I am not. Our tax accountant (who is also employed by my wife to do other business for her and friends/ colleagues of hers) is preparing a joint tax return; I earned a lot in 2011, and had a lot of tax withheld; my wife runs several businesses and is likely to post losses or small profits; we are likely to get a significant tax refund (if we file together); we have yet to file as our accountant has asked for extensions (much to my chagrin) given our overseas status; I no longer have a greencard (gave it up for tax reasons) and I am unlikely to live in the USA again.
Question 1: who gets the refund and how is this decided? Do I get the refund as I have paid the tax or does she get it as she has run up the losses … if we file separately I’ll get very little refund (but some) and she will carry forward losses which she can use against her businesses in future years
Question 2: Is it possible to split the refund and have it paid in separate checks?
Question 3: Help … what would you advise I do?

Many thanks,


October 6, 2012 at 6:42 pm
(52) William Perez says:

Excellent questions, Englebert. There’s a lot going on here. Depends on the date when you gave up your green card. For that year in which you gave up the green card, you’ll be a dual status alien, that is, both resident and nonresident for the year. You’ll be a tax resident of the U.S. up through the date you handed in your green card; you’ll be a non-resident afterwards. For the year in which you are dual status, you’ll need to file a separate tax return (if you are married as of the end f that year). So did you give up your green card in 2011 or 2012? If 2011, then you’ll need to file separately for 2011. If 2012, then you can file either jointly or separately for 2011. This issue should be worked out first. Then, if you’re going to file jointly for 2011, you and your spouse get to decide how to split the refund. If you cannot reach an agreement, then I would look to whether the state you lived in was a community property state or a separate property state. In a community property state, the tax refund belongs to the marital community and is accordingly owned equally by both spouses. In a separate property state, I would divide the refund proportionally to income. You may direct the IRS to issue two separate refunds using Form 8888, but this will be issued via direct deposit. IRS will not mail out two separate checks. I cannot advise you what to do. Hopefully I’ve given enough points and questions to help you talk to your accountant about these issues in more depth.

October 17, 2012 at 8:40 am
(53) Chris says:

I owe college loans and if me and my wife file sepertly would we still be in-titled to the $1,000 child tax break if only one of us claim our child

December 4, 2012 at 2:20 pm
(54) Jason says:

Hi, i hve a question regarding married filing separate. Im married and me n my wife want to file taxes separate. Also shes gona claim one dependent and we live together. But the dependent live separate. I dont have any dependent to claim. Thanks

December 4, 2012 at 2:40 pm
(55) STEVE says:

I receive under 12,000.00 a year for SSDI. I also receive under 8,000.00 for my 17 year old daughter. My wife is a school teacher who earns 45,000.00 a year. I am on Medicare medical insurance. My wife pays for medical insurance for herself and my daughter through her school. We
have no stocks, savings, property etc. Are we better off to file separately?


January 2, 2013 at 2:01 pm
(56) caitlin says:

Here is my situation..my husband and I were married and then 2 weeks later he left me…we have not been together since. Can I then file head of household even though I am legally married? It has been over six months since we lived together.

January 4, 2013 at 4:18 pm
(57) Denise says:

How do we file and claim both homes? My husband and I were married 7/4/12 and we still own both homes. He lives in his and I live in mine, we spend our off days at my home. Which is the best way for us to file and be able to get the benefit of the interest we have been paying on both homes? I also have a daughter in college. Can I claim HOH? And if I can how does my husband file than?

January 5, 2013 at 11:12 am
(58) Amy says:

My husband and I claimed our taxes together last year, as we were married in 2011. For the entire year he has continued to tell me he did not get what he deserved because he married me. I would really like to do my own taxes this year so I don’t have to worry about how much we each get.

January 10, 2013 at 11:36 am
(59) anna wei says:

My husband and I had been filing joint returns since we are married in 2007. I have a property which I own before I got married and is under my own name.

I am considering selling the property which has a gain of 650,000. Was
a residece then converted to a rental. I am reitred has 17,400 income from Social Security. The rental income produced only 1500 income per year ( due to the high basis and high property taxes, in calif ).

On the other hand, my husband has income from various sources of 220,000. If we file joint return we have to pay near 180,000 to 200,000
taxes ( fed and state ).

Can I file married file separate return to reduce taxes of selling the property ?

I am in 15% bracket ( 8701-35,350) , if I file separate , my capital gain
rate should be 0 %.. Correct ?

Please advise.

Thank you.


January 15, 2013 at 12:54 pm
(60) Sondra says:

My husband and I got married last year 3/2012. He has a huge amount of debt, ie, back areage for child support, and other debts (none of which are back taxes). We resided at separate addresses for that year. We have no joint accounts or cards. My son is a junior, fulltime in college and lives with me. My husband’s oldest daughter is a freshman, in college fulltime and living with her mom, and his youngest son (he is a junior in high school) lived with him for that year. My husband made about 10-15K last year, whereas I made 34K. I do not wish to take on his debt, and I do not want to lose money that is owed to me by tax refunds. I do not know how we should be filing this year. Any suggestions????

January 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm
(61) Jill says:

This past year my husband and I got married and had a daughter. He’s currently away on basic training so he has no say in what we file. I would like to file jointly to get the eic but his parents want to claim him to get his school credit. Can we still file jointly if they claim him?

January 18, 2013 at 10:52 pm
(62) Patricia says:

I have 5 children from my ex husband we have been divorce since 2008 and since then I have always filed single and got a nice return… but on 3/17/12 I got remarried my question is should me and my new husband file jointly or sepereate…which way will give me the most back on my return I made like 12000 the past yr however he( new husband) made almost 40000? just confused on which way is the best for me

January 19, 2013 at 1:40 pm
(63) Danielle says:

I got married in 2012. Prior to being married my now husbands tax returns were taken by the government for unpaid debt he had. I am concerned about filing jointly that my refund will them also be taken. He did consult a tax professional last year and was told there was some type of form that can be filled out to make sure they dont also take my money but I am still really concerned. What are your thoughts? Another component that may be a factor is that I completed my MBA in April of 2012 so I do hope to get credits for that.

January 21, 2013 at 11:46 pm
(64) Jessica says:

Last couple years, my boyfriend and I filled married with join because my account said it’s better than filled seperated. But this year, i want to fill seperated, do i have to fill as single or married fill seperated( we did not legally married). Thanks

January 24, 2013 at 10:39 pm
(65) good luck says:

jessica sorry to tell you but it was against the law to file married joint if you were not married. you have to be married to be able to file a joint return..

January 25, 2013 at 5:56 pm
(66) Erin says:

My husband and I were residents of Saipan (US Territory). I moved to CA in June and he stayed in Saipan. An accountant recommended we file separately- however I am curious if we have to split incomes since California is a community property state. Given my husband was abroad.. do I have to claim half his income? He made significantly more than me.

January 26, 2013 at 11:01 am
(67) Samantha says:

I got married a few months ago and I have student loan debt. My husband has perfect credit and pays all the bills and we also have 1 child. With me owing student loans would it be better for him to file married filing separate? I don’t have an income so my husband gets back about 3,500 a year. will they take that for my student loans if we file separate? I know that they can take a portion if we file jointly, and that you can he file for injured spouse with I’m not sure what would be better.

January 28, 2013 at 12:44 am
(68) Crystal says:

My husband and I just got married November 2012. We are wondering if we can file jointly or if we have to file seperetly. We’re just not sure on what to do. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

January 28, 2013 at 12:48 am
(69) Crystal says:

I am also wondering if it matters if I’ve changed my last name yet or not because I have not do to having to go to doctors appointments and being worried that I will no longer be covered under my mothers insurance.

January 30, 2013 at 3:19 am
(70) Phoenx says:

Jessica and Good Luck Says—Jessica, Good Luck Says is WRONG!!! It depends on which state you live in that determines whether you can legally file married or not. Some states it is legal for common law marriages and accordingly, if you reside in a state that supports common law marriage as legal, you can file married for both Federal and State taxes. (Google this and you will see which states apply)
For instance, I’ve lived with my boyfriend for over 7 years in South Carolina. I can legally file single-Head of Household (my child from previous marriage lives with us), married, filing jointly or married-filing separately. So just check your State to see if common law applies…if so, you have the options I mentioned above. (Relative to the info. above, I’m trying to determine which filing status would pay the higher return???) Boyfriend has back taxes due. I do not want to be liable, so my options are filing single-Head of Household or file Married-filing separately. I made appro. 11,000, my common-law husband made approx. 34,000. Does anyone know which filing status would be most advantageous for us? (BTW, part of his income was from Workman’s Compensation due to injury….not sure if this makes a difference???) Anyone>??? Pls. advise. Thank you….

January 30, 2013 at 6:30 pm
(71) Jenny says:

My question is: Is it better for me to file “Married filing separately”?

My situation is this: 2 years ago my husband and I filed jointly & owe quite a bit. We are current and making payments on our back taxes to the IRS. My husband has procrastinated and has not filed last years taxes and I know will do the same this year.
Last year I was in the process of starting a business and have no income to report, however, this year my business has opened (sole proprietorship) and I have a decent income, but also a lot of deductions. I don’t want to let the deadline pass and get behind. Is it ok (or a good idea) for me to go ahead and file separately being that we are paying back taxes & did not file last year?

January 31, 2013 at 10:34 am
(72) cain says:

My wife owns/runs a photography business. I work full time regular job. She always pays all of her taxes at the end of the year instead of throughout the year. Which is better for us? File separate or joint?

January 31, 2013 at 4:54 pm
(73) tupou says:

Last year my husband and i filed our tax joint and we always have been claiming my niece because i take care of her. But anyways we almost had to owe the IRS due because my husband made 79,000 and at the time i worked a part time and made 12,000 but good thing we claimed my niece that we almost owed but we was safe by $150 refund back. My husband claim my niece…so now he claim 0 and still made 69,000 and i made 23,000 and i claim my niece. So would it be better if we file separately to be safe from owing the IRS? Whats the risk? Would my husband owe if he file separate due to his income???

February 1, 2013 at 1:48 am
(74) Deanna says:

i just got married in Oct. 2012 my husband owes alot of back child support. i didnt make alot of money to file on and wont get much back if we file seperatly. a tax preparer suggested injured spouse form but with new gov. regulations it could take up to 3 months for our return that we are gonna lose part of no matter what. we are in dire need of moving and could use it now. do you have any advice to help? and do we have to file married since we were only married 2 and a half months of the filing year? please email me whatever advice you have. thanks

February 2, 2013 at 2:59 pm
(75) rebecca says:

Recently married and trying to decided to file jointly or seperately. I make about 1/2 of what he does and go to school part time using grants. he only works. which way to file is more beneficial?

February 4, 2013 at 10:30 am
(76) Lins says:

Im married and file “married/seperatly” Reason being is my husband most definetly will owe taxes from his BP money and taxes on his Unemployment.. therefor we are filing married but seperate. I have no children and claim 0 and I still owe?! I only make 38k… Im confused on why…I have always gotten money back when claiming 0…how can this be?! HELP—–IM CONFUSED! Shouldn’t I break even or get a little something back? Thank you

February 6, 2013 at 8:15 am
(77) Brittany says:

I met a guy September and got married October he left a week later to his x and wouldn’t file for a divorce and I didn’t have the money to file for a divorce at the time of November . When I file my taxes I worked before I met him and a month while I knew him . How would I file my taxes I filed a divorced first week of jan . I borrowed the money .

February 8, 2013 at 3:22 pm
(78) Kristin says:

I have a question. My husband is not required to file a tax return this year because he did not make enough money. Should I file my return as Married filing jointly or Head of Household? If I file Married filing jointly, do I still enter his income even if he is not required to file??

February 11, 2013 at 9:47 am
(79) kathi says:

my husband and i filed jointly last year with the refund taken over to pay towards a balance my husband owed on previous back taxes which he still owes several thousands on. I obviously didn’t know about this until the refund was garnished. I am wondering if filing MFS this year would make a difference for this year since filing the previous year was MFJ. Am I now liable for my husband previous backtaxes because of filing MFJ from the previous year? I opted not to file th einjured spouse last year since either way that money to the IRS has to be paid but htis year our finances are much tighter and if I hacve the option to try and keep my refund it would be helpful.


February 14, 2013 at 11:43 am
(80) Bri says:

My husband and I was married January 2012, but did not move together until September, being that we lived in separate states…I withdrew my money early from a retirement account my former employer set up for me..about $35,0000.. I paid the tax on it, so I received $28,000.. I feel my husband and I should file jointly, so that if I get penalized, he won’t be subjected to it…should we file separately?..thanks

February 22, 2013 at 11:02 am
(81) Bob Clampett says:

Please note: I am not nor ever have been a tax preparer, or have a tax background. Having been recently married, both my wife and I have decent paying jobs(over the national average), with minimal investments and no deductions. I did run through both ways, filing joint tax returns and filing separately. The outcome is evident in our circumstance: Filing jointly does increase our tax burden to both Federal and State taxes. My suggestion would be to use your tool(s) of preference for tax preparation or have the tax preparer show you the comparison. With some additional work, we were surprised on the difference.

March 3, 2013 at 11:48 am
(82) Deb says:

I was married in 2013, but my husband and I reside in different states and maintain our own households. I still have children to claim and can file as Head of Household but he does not and would have to file Married filing separately. Under this status he cannot claim all of his mortgage interest and is the difference between him getting a $5000 refund and him owing $12,000. He now wants me to file jointly with him, which I am not currently a proponent given under the head of household status I am poised to get a $5000+ refund. Please advise on what is the best status to file.

March 16, 2013 at 9:38 pm
(83) Tina says:

We’ve always filed married joint and received refunds. I’m planning on cashing out my 401k in 2013 and there will be tax consequences. I want to be the only one responsible for the taxes due on the withdrawal. Is it okay to still file married joint for 2012? Do I file married separate for 2013?

March 21, 2013 at 8:58 pm
(84) William Perez says:

That’s up to you, Tina. It’s okay to file jointly in one year, and separately in another year. The decision to file jointly or separately is made each year.

March 17, 2013 at 3:32 pm
(85) R C says:

My husband had a business, which I was totally against, with two other people for 3yrs. They did not pay taxes on the company. I never benefited from this company because it was alway in debt. We have always filed our taxes married filing separate. I paid my house off with my retirement before the business. Can irs take my house.

March 21, 2013 at 8:49 pm
(86) William Perez says:

R C, this is a complex question that would require a more thorough analysis. I suggest you consult with a tax professional who specializes in representing clients before the IRS. Generally speaking, IRS will seize assets owned by a person who is liable for the tax after the IRS has issued a demand for payment and the person hasn’t set up some sort of arrangement with the IRS. An asset seizure can be prevented simply by setting up a payment plan, or making some other official arrangement to take care of the unpaid taxes.

March 20, 2013 at 10:42 pm
(87) RedBull says:

I am filing my taxes using software. So I prepared 3 sets (1 joint and 2 seperate filings) just to check if it is better to file seperately or jointly. When I filed jointly my Federal return is increased by 2K but state is reduced by 700, so net $1300 more refund when filing jointly but I am wondering if that is common to state refund to decrease when filing jointly, If not, I am going to seek help.

March 21, 2013 at 7:43 pm
(88) William Perez says:

It’s hard to say, RedBull. What I would do is compare the line items on the three sets of tax returns to determine what the differences are. Off the top of my head, it’s possible there could be an adjustment on the state return for state taxes that were itemized on the federal return? Or perhaps there are phase-outs that are limiting some of your state deductions on the joint return?

March 21, 2013 at 11:25 pm
(89) AC says:

If I take an early withdrawal from my Ira account (in my name only) and file married separately, will my spouse also be responsible in paying back the taxes due to IRS?

April 1, 2013 at 12:37 pm
(90) Sarah says:

I was thinking about filing separately because I am trying to do the income based repayment on my federal student loans. Will I still be able to claim the interest I have paid all year on my other student loans? If we file separately should we each claim one of our children? We have three. Money is so tight because of these stupid student loans that I don’t want to pay a tax person on top of what I know we are going to owe.

April 4, 2013 at 10:10 am
(91) Pam says:

I am 58 years old. My husband is 63. He is collecting social security retirement now. He has back child support taken from his check every month. I have been filing separately all this time since he did not start getting SS until April of 2012……Also, I owe back taxes from the time I was taking money out of my IRA in 2007 and 2008. I didn’t pay enough taxes. If we decide to file jointly this year, would he be considered responsible for my debt from 2007/2008 when I filed married filing separately? If we file jointly,I would be able to get earned income credit based only on my work earnings. I understand that whatever I get for a credit will go to the IRS toward my back taxes which will lessen the amount I owe. Since he is having his SS check garnished, will any of this EIC credit go to back child support as well?

May 3, 2013 at 8:40 am
(92) Roger says:

My wife and I filed jointly this year. I made 70,380 and she got 8,400 from Social Security Disability payments. I didn’t realize that we needed to report her payments and we got a letter from the IRS saying we owed 900 back from the 2,300 we recieved on our refund. Should we try to re-file seperatly so she dosnt have to claim her payments since she made less than 25,000?

May 6, 2013 at 3:13 pm
(93) William Perez says:

Roger, a good question. Unfortunately, the deadline to switch from married filing jointly to married filing separately is April 15. Since you have already filed jointly and it is now past the April 15th deadline, you won’t be able to switch to the separate status. I’d recommend double-checking the IRS’s tax calculations to make sure they are accurate.

July 27, 2013 at 3:10 pm
(94) wayne says:

I am on ss disability and my wife and I file jointly. She wants to start a business and continue to work. How can she do this without it affecting my disability benefit and can we continue to file jointly?

July 28, 2013 at 10:48 pm
(95) Ira says:

Is there a penalty charge for Married filing Separately? We always filed Single. (We own a house together and split mortgage deductions.) Got married and need to understand the larger implications. Given our combined income, i understand I will no longer be able to make Roth contributions without penalty. Testing last years returns, it seems our refund would be about 7.5% less. I’m trying to understand the benefits of filing jointly. (We both itemize our deductions.)

September 20, 2013 at 11:03 pm
(96) Cynthia in Canada says:

My husband is an American and I am Canadian, we live in Canada. Since the U.S. taxation is based on Citizenship not residency, we have learnt that my husband is required to file U.S. taxes. My question is do we file jointly or does he file married separately? We would like one day to move to the U.S. so I don’t want to do anything to discourage or hamper that ability. My question is, is there any benefit at all to file married joint and I a Canadian disclose my cdn income to the U.S. I have no tax payable in either country and my husband also does not have any tax debt in either country.

November 4, 2013 at 12:30 pm
(97) John in New York says:

My wife and I are around 60 years old and retired. Only income is her 32K from her pension plus anything we withdraw from our retirement accounts (ROTH and 401k). House is paid for. Only major deduction would be ~10K for property/school tax. She has medical instrance through work – I have to buy on my own. Wouldn’t it be better for us to file separately – with the income under my wife – to allow me to qualify for subsidies under Obamacare?

November 5, 2013 at 11:10 pm
(98) earl says:

My wife and I have been married and filing jointly throughout our marriage together of 6 years now. She left her job in 2008 to care for our son, and daughter, and I have been the sole bread winner for the family for this entire time, claiming the interest paid on both homes in our “common property” state.
This year, my wife started selling a clothing line that was started with $5,000 of our savings. She has not made above the poverty limit with this endeavor, however, has also not paid in any income tax yet, as the company she is affiliated with provides 1099′s a the end of the year. Thankfully we live in Washington state, and there is no state income tax. What I’m interested in knowing is if this year I should consider doing the “Married Filling Separately” so that any taxes she is liable for come out of her business account…or would I see more tax breaks by filling Jointly, given my income is $190k+?

November 8, 2013 at 1:58 pm
(99) mary says:

I will be getting married in a month, but I do not want to be responsible for my fiance’s child support debt when we file our taxes next year. He has been unemployed for a few months so he is behind on paying and I was told that if we get married that will become my debt as well. Is this correct? can I file my taxes separately to alleviate this issue?

November 16, 2013 at 10:02 pm
(100) Rosie says:

My husband and I file taxes as married filling jointly although he has no income so he is essentially a dependant. He filed for bankruptcy this year. Given bankruptcy situation, should we continue to file jointly or separately? What are the cons of continuing to file jointly?
Thank you.

November 21, 2013 at 12:14 pm
(101) Kerri says:

Me and my husband have been married for 3 years now… I do both of our taxes and honestly not even thinking about it (no clue how) I put myself as HOH and him single these past 3 years because I have filed HOH for so long I just wasn’t thinking… How much trouble am I going to be in with the IRS…? Also I haven’t worked this year so why is our refund going up $3.000 extra by filing jointly, 3 dependents with ME having NO income…?

December 4, 2013 at 2:23 pm
(102) Tina says:

How will the Affordable Care Act impact the decision to file jointly or separately?

Currently, I have a business in which I am the only employee. My annual income is $14,000. I self-insure and pay $127 per month for basic coverage (one yearly checkup is free and my deductible is $10,000).

My husband is a teacher and makes $60,000 per year. He gets medical free and has a $5,000 deductible (to add me would raise it from $0 per month to $400 per month).

I just looked at the ACA and if I get insurance on my own thru that, it is based on our income tax for 2014 (we usually file jointly), and it will cost me $651 per month for the “silver plan.” If I try to get the coverage with my husband, it excludes us because he is offered insurance thru his employer (so, it will cost us at least $400 per month)

So, if I want to qualify under my own income (and receive coverage either thru Medicaid or at $95 per month sliver plan), I would have to file separately. Without the deductions of joint, it may just be a wash.

December 13, 2013 at 11:19 am
(103) B BUTLER says:


January 13, 2014 at 6:59 pm
(104) Lauren says:

I am a practicing tax preparer and have some questions.
1. Does a married couple legally have to file married filing jointly even if one person did not work for the year or can the couple file Head of Household (no dependents)
2. I had a couple where the wife receives Social Security because she is disabled, if they filed married filing jointly would this status effect her SS income?

January 14, 2014 at 7:36 am
(105) Gregg says:

My wife and I both work, she makes around 13k, I am around 105k Hers takes our joint file refund down about 2k = 40%, should we file seperate to maximize our refund and leave me as HOH and use our 2 girls? Thanks

January 14, 2014 at 9:47 pm
(106) Guera says:

My husband made 51000.00 this year and has four dependants and I made less than 9000 and have 3 dependants but I am going to school and would much rather file seperate. Will we get anything back on our refund if we file seperate? or do we have a better chance doing it jointly with our dependants together?

January 17, 2014 at 10:59 pm
(107) Liz says:

So I recently got my Conditional Resident Green Card. I will be doing my taxes for the first time. Should my husband and I do separate filing, would that have any effect on me removing the condition from my green card when the time comes.

January 23, 2014 at 11:30 pm
(108) john says:

My wife and I currently going through divorce proceedings, she took out a large sum of money from her 401K this tax year and I don’t want to be responsible for it tax wise. We have two current mortgages I am on the large one but she is on the deed, we are both on the smaller one. Does it make sense for me to file married filling separately? Thanks

January 25, 2014 at 3:33 pm
(109) Elida says:

My husband and I are getting a separation this year. He agreed to remove his name legally out of the mortgage deed and other investments we own together. What are the pros or cons in filing taxes if he no longer in the deed?

January 26, 2014 at 1:55 am
(110) Heather H says:

My husband made $47000 in 2013 and I only made $1300. We file jointly. Do we have to claim my income on our tax return? I did not have any state or federal taxes taken out. I am a substitute teacher so I only had a small amount of PERA taken out. If we do not include my income, we would get about $400 more back on our refund.

January 27, 2014 at 2:41 pm
(111) Brianna says:

Hi William,
My husband is in the military and was on a deployment for the first 5 months of last year. I had only made roughly under 20,000. We got married last year in October and I have a child of my own that I claim on taxes. i am also a student. I am trying to find what is the more beneficial way for us to file! HELP please!

February 1, 2014 at 4:17 pm
(112) Kelly says:

My question is wether my wife and I should file jointly or file seperately. We just got married in August of 2013 and we have a total of 5 kids between us. I make approximately $220k from w2 income, and another $30-50k in K-1s from rental property and another business i own. She makes between 10k-12k in w2 income. I have many business deductions as well as donation deductions etc. The AMT or Alternative Minimum Tax has always came into play and will again this year. If you need any other information please let me know. Thanks for any help !

February 2, 2014 at 7:08 am
(113) Mike says:

Just Married in May 2013. I have a mortgage on a home. She has a mortgage on a home. No tax cheating going on…not tryinng to hide anything…not planning on separating. How should we file for best tax advantage. We both have always gotten a refund when filing separately.

February 4, 2014 at 1:19 pm
(114) sweekley says:

Ok so I have a question. I got divorced and remarried last year. A month after I got remarried he left and was absent the last 8 months of the year. I know I can claim head of household on my taxes since he was gone the last 8 months but now he is wanting to work things out and move back in. If I file head of household this year how will that affect me next year if we do get back together.

February 18, 2014 at 11:15 pm
(115) Josephine says:

my husband and I got married in april 2013 and he didn’t work the time weve been married. im filing married jointly and im finding out that my husband owes $1000 in child support from 5-9 years ago. will this cause a problem with my tax refund and will they take out the child support? im very confused. please can someone answer my question thanks

February 19, 2014 at 4:48 pm
(116) Elise says:

My husband and I would like to know if it would be beneficial to file separately? He has a lot of credit card collectors coming after him. He is unemployed. I am employed and we own a house and have 2 children (one is away at college). Last year (2012) one of the creditors garnished his portion of our state return. He did work a little in 2013. We have always filed jointly. I read that if we file separately we would not get the tuition credit.

March 6, 2014 at 1:24 pm
(117) Olivia Browne says:

I was wondering if it would be more beneficial for my husband and I to file separately this year. We got married in October 2013, I have been working the same job for the past 5 years so no complications on my end however for him there are a few. He enlisted in the Army in May 2013y, worked two different government jobs before joining the military, he also has student loans that he is paying. We don’t have children and are currently renting for our housing. I am unsure of which route to take and have gotten zero help from the local tax professionals. Thank you do much for your time.

March 13, 2014 at 3:25 am
(118) paul george says:

I got married in September I am filing married but separate by only being married 3 months of the year do I get a break, can I actually file single ???

March 19, 2014 at 8:56 am
(119) Michelle says:

Question for CANADIAN taxes: Boyfriend and I have been living together for 4 years so have filed as common law for the past 2 years. I usually end up owing but he does not. Does it make more sense in the end to file separately or as common law? We do not share bank accounts or anything other than our house.

March 19, 2014 at 10:41 am
(120) William Perez says:

Michelle, we discuss only US taxes. For Canadian taxes, you might want to check out http://sbinfocanada.about.com/od/taxinfo/

March 20, 2014 at 11:47 am
(121) dave says:

wife has been filing seperately for many years. husband has many years of back taxes. If they file jointly this year to get the student tuition deduction can wife be held responsible for husband’s prior years liability? Not expecting refund, just less taxes owed for last year. Husband did not work last year.

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