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Tax Returns: Joint or separate

Unless you get married on April 15th, expect to remember two crucial dates each year. During your first tax season together, ask these questions to determine whether joint or separate tax returns will work best for you.


Too soon to merge?
In your first year of marriage, you have enough adjusting to do without diving into each other’s receipts. Though you might have to give up some valuable deductions, you’ll save time and hassle when you avoid poking through your spouse’s receipts.


Does your bride hide any money?
If your spouse has questionable bookkeeping skills or spending habits, use this time to highlight the issue in a non-judgmental way. Filing separately can shield you from nasty audits or fines down the road.


Get hurt last year?
If you or your bride paid medical expenses that totaled more than 7.5% of your income, you can enjoy a tax break on those costs. If you don’t hit that mark, try splitting your incomes apart, and claim the benefit on the injured spouse’s return.


Planning on deducting?
If you have children, student loan interest, or other potential deductions, file jointly. Separate filings require you to accept standard deductions. That eliminates many of the usual tax breaks.


Is her last name Soprano?
If your bride runs her own business or if you’re still not sure exactly where her money comes from, experts suggest filing separately. If she’s doing something wrong, the IRS will leave you out of any investigations or penalties.


Run the numbers, and seek help when you need it.
Many popular income tax software packages allow you to simulate returns. You can plug your numbers to discover your best options. Seek the help of an accountant or a tax expert when you’ve got questions the software can’t handle.


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