What You Need to Know Before Saying “I Do” – Marriage and Taxes

Marriage taxes
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Did you get married this year? The honeymoon may be over, but when it comes to marriage and taxes, your love affair with the IRS has only just begun.

When it comes to tax returns, the IRS considers you as a married individual for the entire year. This is regardless of the actual date you sign your marriage certificate. Even if you are married on December 31st, the IRS considers you as being married for that entire year.

The filing status choices for married couples are limited to married filing a joint return or each spouse filing a married filing separate return. Filing as single is not an option. Usually, a joint return results in fewer taxes than filing separately. We recommend computing the combined tax under both methods in order to make an informed decision on the most beneficial filing status. Even if filing separately costs more in taxes, it may still be beneficial in situations where one spouse has existing tax debt or does not want to expose to the other spouse’s tax situation. When a joint return is filed, both spouses are 100% liable for the tax owing on the return as well as for any tax assessed after the return is filed by audit.

When both spouses work, a joint or separate return often results in higher taxes than filing as single. You should consult with your tax advisor to determine whether you’re withholding allowances or your estimated tax payments need to change.

If either spouse has moved since the filing of their last tax return they should file Form 8822 to advise the IRS of their new address. The IRS will send all communication to the last known address, which is typically listed on the person’s last filed tax return. It is your responsibility to make these changes. If your address is not updated and the IRS sends a notice to your old address, the notice will still be considered as “properly delivered.”

Did you end up changing your name? Be sure to file Form SS-5 to have the change recorded with the Social Security Administration (SSA). The name of each spouse shown on the tax return must match the name the SSA has on file. Otherwise, the return will be delayed or possibly rejected, holding up any expected refunds.

Continue to be vigilant for phone scams. Lists of marriages, births, deaths, and real estate transactions are public records and easily accessible to anyone through the internet. Oftentimes, this information is exploited by scammers posing as IRS agents. It is important to be aware that the IRS will never contact you by phone. If they are trying to contact you, the IRS will first send out a series of notices. If there is no response they may send an actual agent to visit your last known address. Any possible communications from the IRS should be brought to the attention of your tax professional to analyze its validity.

If you have questions on this matter or would like to discuss your particular tax situation, please contact Aronson’s Tax Controversy Practice Partner, Larry Rubin, at 301.222.8212 or lrubin@aronsonllc.com.

About Laurence Rubin

Laurence Rubin has written 49 post in this blog.

Laurence C. Rubin, CPA, a partner in Aronson's Tax Services Group, has more than 25 years of experience serving small businesses and high net worth individuals. With a passion for technical excellence and a commitment to client service, Larry provides small business start-up and growth stage guidance, tax planning and compliance services. He works with clients to create tax planning strategies that minimize risk, helping them understand the tax implications of their day-to-day choices. Always mindful of his clients’ best interests, Larry helps negotiate tax debts and resolve tax disputes, including individual and business lien and levy relief, income tax examinations, worker classification disputes, reasonable compensation audits of C and S corporations, and other targeted audit programs. His ability to present tax issues in layman’s terms has made him a valuable expert witness or neutral intermediary in civil litigation matters, earning each side’s trust while navigating complex financial issues. Additionally, Larry has specialized expertise in the tax issues faced by same-sex couples.

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