Getting Married in 2021? Filing Jointly Has Pros and Cons … Here’s Why

Last Updated on June 1, 2021

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Getting married this summer? Filing jointly has some big advantages. But some people still prefer to file separately.

The IRS strongly recommends and encourages married couples to file jointly. There are multiple tax breaks for those who file together. Still, there are some instances when it’s better to file individually.

Pros of Filing Jointly:

The IRS gives joint filers one of the largest standard deductions each year, allowing them to deduct a significant amount of their income immediately. There are multiple tax credits that couples who file together qualify for. Some of the benefits and tax credits are:

Since joint filers reach higher income thresholds for the most part, they can earn more income and potentially qualify for certain tax breaks.

Cons of Filing Separately: 

While couples who file together are eligible for many tax breaks, couples who file individually will not be eligible for most of those. Separate tax returns may raise your taxes with a higher tax rate. The typical deduction rate for separate filers is far lower than that offered to couples that file jointly.

Information from TurboTax reveals statistics from filers in 2020:

Those who were married and filed separately in 2020 only received a standard deduction of $12,400 compared to the $24,800 offered to those who filed jointly.

If you file a separate return from your spouse, you would be disqualified from most of those tax credits and benefits that we mentioned above. You also wouldn’t be able to take a deduction out on student loan interest. Also, those who file separate from their spouse are sometimes limited to a smaller IRA contribution deduction.

When to File Separately:

The situations where it will actually benefit you to file separately are few and far between. TurboTax advises you to file separately if you or your spouse “has a large amount of out-of-pocket medical expenses to claim.” They also say that “filing separate returns in such a situation may be beneficial if it allows you to claim more of your available medical deductions by applying the threshold to only one of your incomes.”

If you can, take the time to file your tax returns both ways. Keep your calculator out and write down everything you need to know. That way you can see how much you will be getting back or how much you will have due. If filing separately gives you the most money back, or the least amount of money to pay back to the IRS, then it doesn’t hurt much to file separately for that year.

TurboTax advises you to “look at the net refund or balance due from each method,” then choose what is the best fit for you and your household. If you don’t file your taxes yourself, consider using HRBlock or TurboTax. They will do calculations for you “and recommend the filing status that gives you the biggest tax savings.”