Getting married changes a lot, including your tax status, but two things remain the same: You still have to file a tax return, and Uncle Sam lets you take a deduction. The good news is that when you file jointly, your deduction doubles. Your deduction is the amount you subtract from your income to lower your tax bill.
Before you figure your standard deduction, you first have to determine your filing status. When you’re single, that’s your only filing status choice; however, married couples can choose between filing jointly or filing separately. As far as the IRS is concerned, “a marriage means only a legal union between a man and a woman as husband and wife.” The IRS considers you married for the whole year provided you meet its parameters on Dec. 31.
In 2009, the standard deduction for couples filing jointly was $11,400. Enter it on line 40 of form 1040, on line 24 of form 1040A or on line 5 (along with your exemptions) if you file your taxes on form 1040EZ. You eliminate the need to keep track of contributions, taxes paid and medical expenses when you use the standard deduction.
Increases to Your Standard Deduction
Your standard deduction increases if you or your spouse is blind or if either of you is over 65 years old. It also increases if you pay state or local real estate taxes. Additionally, the government gives you a tax break by increasing your standard deduction if you suffered a financial loss because of a federally declared disaster. For 2009, you could also increase your standard deduction if you paid sales or excise tax on a new car purchase after February 16, 2009. If you can increase your deduction, you must file on form 1040 or 1040A and include schedule L.
Itemizing Your Deduction
Taking the standard deduction makes tax time easier, since you don’t have to keep track of a lot of expenses. You may, however, find it worthwhile to do so and itemize your deductions. If your allowed expenses for medical costs, taxes, home mortgage interest, charitable contributions and some job-related expenses add up to more than the standard deduction, you’ll definitely want to itemize so that you subtract more from your taxable income. The more you can subtract by itemizing deductions on Schedule A, the less tax you'll pay. The bad news: You have to keep track of all of your expenses to find out if they exceed the standard deduction. The good news: If you itemize and pay a tax preparer rather than doing it yourself, that fee is deductible.
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