- You can choose married separate tax status if you and your spouse do not agree to file a joint tax return.
- It can also be the correct tax filing status if you're getting divorced, have liability issues, filing jointly won't help you lower your tax bill, need to qualify for a student loan repayment plan, or don't have the consent of your spouse.
- Many tax benefits are prohibited or less beneficial to married taxpayers filing separate returns.
- Married parents who file separate tax returns cannot claim their children as dependent family members, which can significantly affect the amount of tax owed.
- Usually, married couples who file jointly tend to pay lower taxes or get a bigger refund.
You may want to choose separate tax status if you and your spouse have two very different incomes, are getting divorced, have liability issues, filing jointly won't help you lower your tax bill, or don't have your spouse's consent.
Filing separately is a tax situation for couples where each person files their own tax return, with their own income, deductions and exemptions. There are usually more benefits when couples register asjoint married filing. But filing separately may make sense in some cases. Understand the pros and cons of this tax status so you know if it's right for you.
What is married status/filing separately?
Filing for married separation is a tax status you can choose to file if you don't want to be responsible for any income or taxes for your spouse. If you are married and file a separate tax return, you are only responsible for that return and your own tax payments. You cannot be held legally responsible for any errors or omissions on your spouse's return, and your tax refund will be sent to the account listed on your return, if applicable.
Income limits for tax brackets are not as generous if you are using married filing separately status. You will also be disqualified from claiming many tax deductions and credits. More on that below.
When do you have to file a separate declaration while you are married?
There are times when you should file separately while married and times when it might make more sense for your personal situation.
You do not have the consent of your spouse
Both spouses must sign the tax return when you file it jointly, so you must file a separate return if your spouse is unable or unwilling to do so because they are unwilling or unable to agree to file a joint return. There is an exception to this rule if one of the spouses dies during the tax year. You can still file together for that year if you want, but you can also file separately.
Are you worried about liability?
Both spouses are "jointly and severally liable" for the accuracy of adeclaration of joint income tax. They are also jointly and severally liable for any taxes resulting from that refund. The IRS can collect tax debts and penalties from each of you. Both are equally responsible for any errors or omissions in returns, although there are some exceptions to the rule.
Filing separately is a way to limit your liability if you don't trust your spouse. Maybe your spouse has outstanding debts, such as back taxes or past due child support, and you don't want your refund to be garnished to pay them.
There is an exception to liability if either spouse can prove innocence in a spousal relief case by proving that they were unaware that the other spouse misfiled tax information. It would be unfair to hold them liable for any debt or penalty arising from these incorrect statements.
You are applying for certain student loan repayment plans
Another reason you might want to file a separate application is to qualify for an income-driven repayment plan to reduce your federal student loan payments. The Income and Potential Income Repayment Plans and the PAYE Plan allow married borrowers filing separately to have their payments determined solely on the basis of their income.
However, the increase in tax liability may be greater than the amount you will save through a student loan repayment plan; therefore, calculate whether it is worthwhile to archive separately.
Filing jointly would not lower your tax bill or increase your refund.
You may prefer to file separately if you both work and make about the same amount of money. This could put you in a higher tax bracket, although you should be sure that any other benefits of filing jointly do not outweigh this consideration.
There is no real disadvantage to filing separately if the combined taxes due on the two separate tax returns are the same or very close to the taxes that would be due on the joint return. You'll get liability protection even if you have no particular reason to worry about it.
The spouse has significant medical expenses
You can deduct out-of-pocket medical expenses if they exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI). That's a high threshold to meet, and it should be easier if a person with those expenses compares them to their lower AGI. In that case, it might make sense to file your taxes separately.
Divorcing or separated?
Filing jointly may not be in your best interest if you are divorcing. You can avoid a joint invoice or joint return if you file a separate return, as well as avoid these liability issues. Your refund will be deposited directly into the account you choose if you have one.
You can qualify as head of household if you have custody of the children and live separately from your spouse.
How Separated Marriage Status Affects Taxes
Married taxpayers filing separate tax returns are prohibited from claiming some tax credits, including:
- Credit for the elderly and infirm (if living with a spouse)
- Credit for the care of children and dependents(In most cases)
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
- American Opportunity or Lifelong Education Loans
Married taxpayers filing separately may also have a more difficult time qualifying for the total amount.tax credit for children. Only one parent can claim child support, and the amount of the credit will be based on income limits that are half the amount allowed for a couple filing jointly.
Deductions and exclusions
Some tax deductions may be out of reach simply because both spouses must claim the standard deduction when they file separately or both spouses must itemize their deductions.
Income phase-out threshold forIRA deductionit is less if at least one of you is covered by a pension plan at work. Certain other deductions and exclusions are out of bounds for married separate filers, including:
- Tuition and fees deduction
- Ostudent loan interest deduction
- Exemption from tax on interest on US bonds
- Tax-free exclusion fromSocial security benefits
Claim of dependents
Two taxpayers cannot claim the same dependent unless they are married and file a joint return. Married taxpayers who are parents and file separately must decide which of them will claim their child as a dependent for various tax credits.
If you and your spouse file separately and have two children, each of you can claim one child. Or one of you can claim two or three if you have multiple children, leaving other dependents to the other spouse.
The IRS will assign a dependent to the parent with whom the child lived most often during the tax year if the agency decides on the matter. He will give the dependent to the parent with the highest adjusted gross income according to the standard if the parents live together.
Tax rates for married taxpayers filing separately
Yoursubmission statusit also affects the tax rate you pay based on your income. The following marginal tax rates apply to those who are married but file separate returns for tax year 2022:
|2022 tax brackets for married taxpayers filing separately|
|10%||0 USD do 10.275 USD|
|12%||10.276 USD do 41.775 USD|
|22%||41.776 USD do 89.075 USD|
|24%||US$89,076 to US$170,050|
|32%||170.051 USD do 215.950 USD|
|35%||215.951 USD do 323.925 USD|
The separate classes for married filing are the same as those that apply to single taxpayers, with one important exception. The 35% tax bracket covers most income for individual taxpayers. Those who are married and file separately enter the top 37% tax bracket with an income nearly $200,000 less than singles.
The difference is even greater when compared to married taxpayers filing jointly. The higher rate of 37% applies to income of $647,850 or more for couples filing jointly for 2022 (and is $693,750 for tax year 2023).
Tax bracket income limits (not benefits) are indexed to inflation, so they tend to increase slightly from year to year.
|2023 tax brackets for married taxpayers filing separate returns|
|10%||US$0 to US$11,000|
|12%||11.001 USD do 44.725 USD|
|22%||44.726 USD do 95.375 USD|
|24%||95.376 USD do 182.100 USD|
|32%||182.101 USD do 231.250 USD|
|35%||231.250 USD do 346.875 USD|
Can you change the archive status after archiving?
Married couples must decide whether they want to file jointly or separately when they prepare their annual tax return, but can change their mind and switch from two separate returns to one joint return within three years of the due date. extensions.
You must send aamended tax return, Form 1040-X, if you want to change your filing status after filing your tax return.
On the other hand, if you filed a joint return, you can change your mind and switch to two separate returns within the tax deadline of that tax year.
What about applying as head of household?
You or your spouse - or maybe both - may qualify forhostapplication status if you live separately. This is much more convenient than filling out a separate marriage declaration, but comes with a lot of eligibility rules.
You cannot live together at any time during the last six months of the year if you are not already divorced. Your home must be the primary residence of at least one of your children for more than half the year or the primary residence of another dependent child for the entire year. Some family members, like your parents, don't have to live with you to qualify for your dependents, but you have to pay more than half the cost of supporting them elsewhere.
You must pay more than half the price of your own home if your dependent lives with you.
You can claim tax breaks and credits that wouldn't otherwise be available to you if you qualify to file as head of household instead of filing separately as a married person.
Filing of separate marriages in common property
Couples living in one of the ninecommunity-owned statemust follow special rules for income allocation and deductions when filed separately.Community ownership states include California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Nevada, Idaho, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Joint assets and income are jointly owned by both spouses. For example, if your spouse earns $80,000, half of that is credited to you, regardless of the fact that you didn't earn it yourself. Each spouse must report half of the total income from joint property on their separate tax return, even if they did not work a single day during the year.
reflectedthey are also split in half, with each spouse reporting half of the deduction on their separate return. These rules apply even if only one of the spouses lives in the common property state.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Does the separate declaration affect taxes on social benefits?
Social Security benefits can only be taxed at up to 50% if you and your spouse don't live together, earn less than $34,000, and plan to file separately. Benefits can be taxed at up to 85% if you live together or have more than $34,000 in income.
Is there a penalty for filing separately?
There is no penalty for using the married-filing-separate status, but there istax benefitsfor which you will not be eligible if you do not file jointly. Most tax professionals will tell you that this status is the least beneficial for those involved.
Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your reply!
Tell us why!
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to back up the facts in our articles. Read ourseditorial processto learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
Tax administration "submission status."
Tax administration "Signing the Declaration."
Tax administration "Relief for the innocent spouse."
Federal student aid. "Do you have questions about the different types of income-driven repayment plans?"
Tax administration "Topic no. 502 Medical and dental expenses."
Tax administration "Dependents, standard deduction and filing information." Page 7.
Tax administration "dependents."
Tax administration "The Tax Administration provides tax inflation adjustments for the 2022 tax year."
Tax administration "Revenue procedure 2022-38."
Tax administration "Instructions for Form 1040-X."
Tax administration "Publication 501 (2021), Dependents, Standard Deduction and Registration Information."
Tax administration "Publication 555 (03/2020) General goods."(Video) Head of Household vs Married Filing Separately? | 401K Match Calculation Help | 401K Match Annually?
Administration for Social Insurance. "Income tax and your social benefits."
What happens if you are married and file taxes separately? ›
If you file a separate return from your spouse, you are often automatically disqualified from several of the tax deductions and credits mentioned earlier. In addition, separate filers are usually limited to a smaller IRA contribution deduction. They also cannot take the deduction for student loan interest.Which filing status takes out the most taxes? ›
Which taxpayers pay income tax at the highest rates and the lowest rates? (The highest tax rates apply to taxpayers who use the married filing separately filing status. The lowest tax rates apply to taxpayers who use either the married filing jointly or qualified widow(er) with dependent child filing status.)What are the disadvantages of married filing separately? ›
- Unable to take a deduction for student loan interest.
- Typically limited to a smaller IRA contribution deduction.
- Disqualified from several tax credits and benefits available to those married filing jointly.
Married filing separately is a tax status used by married couples who choose to record their incomes, exemptions, and deductions on separate tax returns. Some couples might benefit from filing separately, especially when one spouse has significant medical expenses or miscellaneous itemized deductions.
You cannot file single if you are married. There are some exceptions to this rule, if you are a widow(er), if you are legally separated from your spouse, or if you are under a divorce.Is it better to file taxes separately or jointly? ›
When it comes to being married filing jointly or married filing separately, you're almost always better off married filing jointly (MFJ), as many tax benefits aren't available if you file separate returns. Ex: The most common credits and deductions are unavailable on separate returns, like: Earned Income Credit (EIC)What are the rules for married filing separately? ›
Married Filing Separately
If you and your spouse file separate returns, you should each report only your own income, deductions, and credits on your individual return. You can file a separate return even if only one of you had income. Community or separate income.
Your filing status is used to determine your filing requirements, standard deduction, eligibility for certain credits, and your correct tax. If more than one filing status applies to you, this interview will choose the one that will result in the lowest amount of tax.When should a husband and wife file separately? ›
Key Takeaways. Though most married couples file joint tax returns, filing separately may be better in certain situations. Couples can benefit from filing separately if there's a big disparity in their respective incomes, and the lower-paid spouse is eligible for substantial itemizable deductions.What is the best way to file taxes when married but separated? ›
If you are separated, you are still legally married. While you may think you should file separately, your filing status should be either: Married filing jointly (MFJ) Married filing separately (MFS)
What percentage of married couples file separately? ›
According to the most recent IRS data, only about 5 percent of all married taxpayers filed separate tax returns from their spouse, which seems surprisingly low.Is head of household better than married filing separately? ›
What are the advantages of filing as Head of Household? The Head of Household filing status provides a higher standard deduction and, generally, a lower tax rate than Single or Married Filing Separately.Do they take more taxes if you file jointly? ›
When you are married and file a joint return, your income is combined — which, in turn, may bump one or both of you into a higher tax bracket. Or, one of you is a higher earner, that spouse may find themselves in a lower tax bracket. Depending on your situation, this could be a tax benefit of being married.Who should claim dependents when married filing separately? ›
When filing separately, only one parent can claim a qualifying child and the tax breaks that follow. Generally, the parent who provides the child's housing for most of the tax year gets to claim the child and the tax breaks.Who files head of household when married filing separately? ›
To qualify for the head of household filing status while married, you must be considered unmarried on the last day of the year, which means you must: File your taxes separately from your spouse. Pay more than half of the household expenses. Not have lived with your spouse for the last 6 months of the year.Can you change your tax filing status at any time? ›
You can change your tax filing status each year as long as you satisfy its specific eligibility requirements.Who claims house when married filing separately? ›
When claiming married filing separately, mortgage interest would be claimed by the person who made the payment. Therefore, if one of you paid alone from your own account, that person can claim all of the mortgage interest and property taxes.Which filing status takes less taxes? ›
Key Takeaways. In general, married couples who file their taxes jointly will have less withheld from their paychecks than singles.What is the penalty for filing head of household while married? ›
There's no tax penalty for filing as head of household while you're married. But you could be subject to a failure-to-pay penalty of any amount that results from using the other filing status. This is 0.5% (one-half of one percent) for each month you didn't pay, up to a maximum of 25%.Who pays more taxes married or head of household? ›
Married Filing Jointly (or Qualifying Widower): This status should be used if you are married and filing a joint tax return with your spouse. This status will have less taxes withheld from each paycheck than Head of Household.
Why do I pay more taxes being single? ›
You pay more in taxes. Income earned by single people is taxed at a higher percentage than the income of married people filing jointly with a similar tax table. You receive less in Social Security because married people can draw from a living spouse's benefits and also receive a deceased spouse's benefits.When should you file separately if married? ›
- You and/or your spouse have deductions based on Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). ...
- You and/or your spouse have income-based student loans. ...
- You live in a community property state. ...
- To protect yourself against liability issues. ...
- You are not willing to file together.
Eligibility requirements for married filing separately
If you're considered married on Dec. 31 of the tax year, then you may choose the married filing separately status for that entire tax year. If two spouses can't agree to file a joint return, then they'll generally have to use the married filing separately status.