Can Unmarried Couples Have a Joint Checking Account?

Paying household bills can be easier with a joint account.

Paying household bills can be easier with a joint account.

Navigating finances with your significant other means deciding what sort of accounts you need and who's responsible for paying what. You don't have to be married to get a joint checking account, but you should understand the responsibilities involved, as well as the joint bank account rules when it comes to taxes. Sharing your life doesn't mean you have to share a bank account, but it's certainly a possibility.

Sharing a Bank Account

Banks don't require you to be married to get a joint account. In fact, many accountholders kick off their relationship with a bank by asking, "What's involved in opening joint bank account with my boyfriend?" When you go in together to open the account, you both must present the proper forms of identification, such as a driver's license. Both of you will provide your Social Security numbers and sign to accept responsibility for the account. The process of getting a joint account is no more complicated whether you're single and sharing a household or married. When your lives are intertwined, using a joint checking account can simplify how you handle finances. It allows you both easily to contribute to the household expenses and it saves time when you're balancing the account – there's only one to worry about. It also helps you communicate about money because you must continually discuss purchases and upcoming expenses so the account doesn't become overdrawn.

Issues with Sharing an Account

Having a joint checking account isn't all fun and games, however. If you begin to disagree about money, one of you doesn't have more of a legal right to the funds in the account than the other person. That means either of you could clean out the joint account at any time, regardless of who put the money in there. Some people like to keep a measure of financial independence and not have every penny tied up with someone else's finances. Because you both own the account equally, you also own any problems with the account equally, so it's important to set joint bank account rules. If your partner bounces checks constantly, it can affect your credit score. You should also ask about the types of joint accounts since it could make things easier at tax time to be able to easily separate your finances for reporting purposes.

2018 Taxes

By joint account definition, things can get complicated at tax time. If you share an account and you aren't married, for instance, one party putting a large deposit into the account could trigger a gift tax filing requirement. In 2018, the amount you can put in without a gift tax being enacted is $15,000. This is up $1,000 from 2017, so if you're planning to get a check in the tens of thousands of dollars this year and you're sharing an account with your nonspouse significant other, it's time to take note. If you're routinely making such large deposits, it may be time to consider separate accounts.

2017 Taxes

If you filed in 2017 and didn't claim a deposit of $14,000 or more, it might be time to take a look at your filing. If you share an account with a nonspouse, you may face an audit in the future. Make sure you save documentation on the deposit to show it was, indeed, not a gift to the joint account holder.

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About the Author

Based outside Atlanta, Ga., Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the "Marietta Daily Journal" and the "Atlanta Business Chronicle," she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.

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