Rules for Filing a Joint Tax Return

by Julia Forneris, Demand Media
    If you've tied the knot in the past year, tax season might be different.

    If you've tied the knot in the past year, tax season might be different.

    While filing tax returns aren't as fun as opening wedding gifts, your new joint status may pay off in the long run. But come tax time you and your spouse may be eligible for some discounts if you choose to file a joint tax return. Knowing the rules ahead of time can save you both time and money.

    Eligibility

    As long as you tied the knot by midnight on New Year's Eve, you can file a joint tax return for the upcoming tax season. Some states even recognize common law marriages. If one of you earned all the income and the other none, you can still file jointly. All file jointly means is that you both combine any earned income and add up and report all your shared deductions.

    How to File

    Whether it's your first time filing a joint return or your third, you should consider asking for some help. Tax professionals take the guesswork out of navigating Internal Revenue Service paperwork and know how to maximize your discounts. They will also take care of filing your taxes for you. If you decide to go it alone, you file using either a Form 1040, Form 1040A or in some cases Form EZ. There is a column called "Married filing jointly" as well as a worksheet to calculate your tax.

    Responsibility

    You and your spouse need to be on the same page about filing since you'll both be signing the tax papers. In doing so, you share equal responsibility for what you report on the tax return. If any of the information is incorrect or fraudulent, you and your spouse might share in any fees or penalties, even if one of you didn't earn any income. Occasionally shared responsibility doesn't apply. For example, you can file a Request for Innocent Spouse Relief (Form 8857), which helps you with penalties incurred from an improper tax return.

    Signing

    In order to file your taxes, you and your spouse both need to sign the papers. If one of you will be away from the home as April 15 looms, plan ahead by preparing and signing before the deadline. On some occasions you can sign for your spouse, but may need to obtain a power of attorney to do so.

    About the Author

    Julia Forneris has been a writer and editor since 2002. Her work has appeared in economics magazines such as "Region Focus" and on various websites. The editor of Scratch That! Editorial, Forneris holds a Master of Arts in literature from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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