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The day you walked down the aisle, you dreamed about all the things that come with happily ever after—from moonlit walks on the beach to his and hers hand towels. Now it’s time to share another time-honored marital tradition: filing taxes.
If this is your first tax season as husband and wife, here are four things that will be different this time around.
Related: Overwhelmed by tax preparation? Use a tax expert and skip the stress.
Your Personal Information
To make your first tax-filing as a couple as smooth as possible, you’ll need to take care of a couple of things first.
- If you moved, be sure to notify the IRS of your address change by filing IRS Form 8822.
- Report any name changes to the Social Security Administration so your name and Social Security number match on your tax forms. If they don’t, the IRS will hold your tax refund until you resolve the issue. Fill out form SS-5 and file it at your local Social Security office. If you don’t have time to change your name before the tax deadline, you can file with your husband using your maiden name. But make sure you take care of the name change by next year.
Don’t forget to let your employer know of any changes to your name and/or address so your W-2 arrives on time and in good order.
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Related: Tax preparation doesn’t have to be a pain. Save time and reduce hassle by gathering the right paperwork the first time around. Download your free tax preparation checklist.
Your Tax Withholdings
Now that you have a new household income, be sure to adjust your tax withholdings. You can do that by completing a new W-4 form at work.
Remember, a big refund means you’re lending your money to Uncle Sam interest-free for a year. That’s a bad idea! Try to get your refund as close to zero as possible so your money makes it to your paycheck where it will do you the most good!
Your Filing Status
Filing as a couple isn’t much different than filing as an individual. Simply report your and your spouse’s incomes and deduct your combined allowable expenses. Most couples will find that filing jointly reduces their tax bills. Why? For one thing, you’ll qualify for additional tax benefits with a joint return.
Here’s another reason to consider. Let’s say you and your spouse file separately. If you make $40,000 a year while your spouse makes $32,000, you would end up in the 25% tax bracket and your spouse would be in the 15% tax bracket. By filing together, you both pay the 15% tax rate.
Keep in mind that couples with similar incomes in higher tax brackets could end up paying higher tax rates with a joint return, depending on the deductions and credits you qualify for.
You and your spouse will also have to decide whether to itemize or take the standard deduction. The standard deduction for married couples filing jointly is $12,700 for the current tax year.(1)
If your individual deductions add up to more than the standard deduction, you could benefit from the extra hassle of itemizing. Common deductions include property taxes, certain types of interest, medical expenses and charitable giving.
Eliminate First-Year Tax Jitters
Marriage changes everything, and change can be scary. But it doesn’t have to be. A qualified tax pro can take the stress out of tax season by working with you and your spouse to get your taxes done right.
If you’re looking for advice you can trust, we can put you in touch with a tax advisor Dave recommends in your area today.