Tax deductions are no reason to get married. They certainly don’t hurt, though. Whether your situation will be improved by filing jointly depends on your combined income level. In cases where you both have similar incomes, you may be taxed at a higher rate than you would have been when single. When there is a large difference in your incomes, though, you may come out ahead and see some marriage tax benefits.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
How much you get back on a tax return as a married vs. a single person depends on your joint incomes and whether you file separately or jointly.
How Much You Get Back On Taxes Filing as Married Vs. Single
When you marry, you must file your taxes with a married status. You can file as married filing jointly or as married filing separately. When it comes to tax filing married jointly vs. separately, in most cases, married filing jointly offers the most benefits in terms of overall tax benefits and a lower tax burden.
If you’re married filing jointly, your joint incomes determine your income taxes. If you were making $40,000 per year as a single person in 2016, for example, your tax bracket would be 25 percent. If you married someone in 2016 who also made $40,000, your joint income of $80,000 would still be 25 percent. If you married someone who earned $20,000, your joint income of $60,000 would fall into the 15 percent tax bracket. If you married someone who made $120,000, though, your joint incomes would push you into the 28 percent tax bracket.
Getting married also impacts your deductions. You can itemize, of course, which may be to your advantage if you’ve purchased a home with your spouse. If you were single in 2016, for example, and took the standard deduction, your deduction is $6,300. If you were married filing jointly, your joint deduction for 2016 would be $12,600. Although your deduction doesn’t increase if you’re married, it can make a bigger impact if your joint incomes also placed you in a lower tax bracket.
Exceptions to Consider When Deciding Whether to File Jointly
There are situations where filing jointly may not be the best option. The biggest reason not to file jointly is if you feel your spouse is not being honest in their tax calculations. When you file jointly, you both become liable for the accuracy of your taxes. If there are any errors or liabilities, you both become responsible. If you file separately, you are only liable for your taxes.
Another situation where it might make sense to file separately is if one of you has significant medical expenses to deduct. You can only deduct those expenses if they are more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. That threshold might be easier to meet if it’s measured against one spouse’s income rather than the total of both your incomes.
Getting the Married Tax Deduction for 2018
For your 2018 taxes, which are filed in 2019, you may want to compare the results of tax filing married jointly vs. separately. You will also need to compare whether itemizing your deductions or taking the standard deduction on your Form 1040 is better for your situation. The standard deduction for married couples filing jointly is $24,000. The standard deduction for each member of a married couple filing separately is $12,000.
Getting the Married Tax Deduction for 2017
As with your 2018 taxes, you should consider which filing option gives you the best marriage tax break. If you don’t itemize, the standard deduction for a couple that’s married filing jointly is $12,700. The standard deduction for married couples filing separately is $6,350.
- Bankrate: 2016 Tax Bracket Rates
- Investopedia: Married Filing Jointly
- Investopedia: Married Filing Separately
- IRS: Choosing the Current Filing Status
- Forbes: New: IRS Announces 2018 Tax Rates, Standard Deductions, Exemption Amounts and More
- Forbes: IRS Announces 2017 Tax Rates, Standard Deductions, Exemption Amounts and More
- IRS: In 2016, Some Tax Benefits Increase Slightly Due to Inflation Adjustments, Others Are Unchanged
- Intuit Turbotax: Should You and Your Spouse File Taxes Jointly or Separately?
- Forbes: Four Ways Getting Married Will Change Your Taxes
Melinda Hill Sineriz is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience. Her work has appeared on Pocket Sense and Sapling. She specializes in business, personal finance, and career writing. She has worked in insurance sales and financial planning, helping families to manage their money and prepare for the future. Learn more about her and her work at thatmelinda.com.