Can a Married Person File Single on Taxes?

by Louise Balle, Demand Media

    Some married people prefer to keep their finances separate from each other, particularly when it comes to filing taxes. If this sounds like you, you may want to know if you can file as "single" on your taxes. Well, if you're legally married, that is your true marital status as far as the IRS is concerned. You simply cannot file as single if you have a spouse as of the end of the tax year. However, you can still file separately from your spouse by selecting a different filing status besides "married filing jointly."

    Solution

    While you cannot choose "single" on your taxes when you're married, you can file as "married filing separately" instead. It's similar to filing as a single person, only you acknowledge the fact that you're legally married. In this case, each spouse files a separate return containing information about the income, deductions, and expenses associated with her financial situation for the year.

    Why?

    You have your own reason for wanting file by yourself as a married person that is commonly related to your personal situation. But one of the most common reasons for doing so is if one spouse owes money and the other is due a refund. If the couple filed jointly the refund might get absorbed and no one would receive a refund. So filing separately could afford at least one partner with cash back after filing for that tax year. When filing jointly, both people are on the hook for tax due as well as any penalties and interest. Also, if the couple is legally separated that is another reason for choosing to file as "married filing separately."

    Downsides

    You must also consider the downsides of filing separately from your spouse. For one, you and your spouse must choose the same method of taking deductions (either itemized or the standard deduction). When you file separately you're also ineligible for certain common credits and deductions, like education credits, earned income credit and student loan interest deductions. If the couple has a child, the filers may have to settle for a smaller child tax credit due to filing separately.

    Suggestions

    It's important to take both the benefits and downsides of checking the "married filing separately" status box when you do your taxes. Do not make a purely emotional or quick decision without considering all scenarios. Write a list of the pros and cons before you make a final decision. Talk to your spouse. Consult a financial adviser or tax preparer about your options to ensure that you're making the right choice.

    About the Author

    Louise Balle has been writing Web articles since 2004, covering everything from business promotion to topics on beauty. Her work can be found on various websites. She has a small-business background and experience as a layout and graphics designer for Web and book projects.