Ask the Expert: When the IRS considers you married

If you're married at year-end, you've been married If you're married at year-end, you've been married all year for tax purposes. Photo Credit: Handout

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Lynn Brenner Lynn Brenner

Brenner answers questions about all aspects of family finance. ...

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My fiancé and I are concerned about the taxes we'll pay as a married couple. Our combined salaries are $150,000. We can have the wedding in late 2013 or early 2014. If we get married in October 2013, do we only file as married for only two months? What's the best filing status for us?

 

To the IRS, there's no such thing as a little bit married. Even if you're married on Dec. 31, it considers you married all year. But that shouldn't dramatically boost your tax bill.

A single taxpayer who earns $75,000 owes $12,500 in 2013 federal tax, assuming she takes a standard deduction, says Jill Schneider, a Syosset tax attorney. If you and your intended each earn $75,000 and take a standard deduction, and don't marry until 2014, together you'll owe $25,000 in 2013 federal income tax. And you'll owe only $300 more if you get married this year and pay your 2013 federal taxes as a married couple filing jointly with a standard deduction, says Schneider.

The alternative, filing married separately, is usually more expensive because it disqualifies you for some deductions and credits, and the tax rates are higher. Let's say you pay 2013 taxes filing married separately and taking a standard deduction. If one spouse earned the entire $150,000, he or she owes $35,000; the other spouse owes nothing. If each of you earned $75,000, each will owe $13,000.

However, filing separately can sometimes reduce a couple's tax bill -- for example, by letting them claim a big medical deduction or casualty loss against one salary. And it's a good idea if you're worried about your spouse's honesty, says Schneider. "When you file separately, you avoid legal and financial responsibility for each other's debts."

The bottom line If you're married at year-end, you've been married all year for tax purposes.

Websites with more information tax.sh/10j7M9b and bit.ly/11LlfEy

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