Chapter from TaxAssurances’ Book: Marriage

The following post is a chapter in the TaxAssurances’ book, “Top 12 Tax Deductions You Might Have Missed. Tax Tips For People Who Do Their Own Federal Taxes.”

You can purchase the full book on Amazon.

Chapter 7 Marriage

Not only is a marriage a union based on love and trust it also offers tax benefits. For instance, married couples that file their taxes together have higher standard deductions and exemptions than individuals that file single, head of household or married filing separately. As a result, married couples most likely have lower tax bills.

There are couples however that decide to file their tax returns separately. While they do have it as a option, here’s how the IRS describes what they are giving up:

• “If you choose married filing separately as your filing status, the following special rules apply. Because of these special rules, you usually pay more tax on a separate return than if you use another filing status you qualify for.

• Your tax rate generally is higher than on a joint return.

• Your exemption amount for figuring the alternative minimum tax is half that allowed on a joint return.

• You cannot take the credit for child and dependent care expenses in most cases, and the amount you can exclude from income under an employer’s dependent care assistance program is limited to $2,500 (instead of $5,000). However, if you are legally separated or living apart from your spouse, you may be able to file a separate return and still take the credit. For more information about these expenses, the credit, and the exclusion, see chapter 32.

• You cannot take the earned income credit.

• You cannot take the exclusion or credit for adoption expenses in most cases.

• You cannot take the education credits (the American opportunity credit and lifetime learning credit) or the deduction for student loan interest.

• You cannot exclude any interest income from qualified U.S. savings bonds you used for higher education expenses.

• If you lived with your spouse at any time during the tax year:

• You cannot claim the credit for the elderly or the disabled, and

• You must include in income a greater percentage (up to 85%) of any social security or equivalent railroad retirement benefits you received.

• The following credits and deductions are reduced at income levels half those for a joint return:

• The child tax credit,

• The retirement savings contributions credit,

• The deduction for personal exemptions, and

• Itemized deductions.

• Your capital loss deduction limit is $1,500 (instead of $3,000 on a joint return).

• If your spouse itemizes deductions, you cannot claim the standard deduction. If you can claim the standard deduction, your basic standard deduction is half the amount allowed on a joint return.

So as the list above suggests, if you’re married or getting married, file your tax return together. There are some real tax benefits.

For more information about being married and filing tax returns, read “Filing Status” on the IRS.gov website.

Again, You can purchase the full book on Amazon.

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Benefits Of Reviewing Prior Year Tax Returns

IRS4Did you have your tax preparer look at your returns for the last few years? It’s a good idea for taxpayers to review their returns every year. In many cases the review may reveal missed credits and deductions taxpayers may be entitled to that ultimately give them a bigger tax refund.

Review Last Three Tax Returns

This past tax season I reviewed the last three tax returns for one of my clients. In the end, she was grateful I did. Not only had she done her own tax returns without knowing all of the educational credits she was entitled to but she also received bad advice from a co-worker about the number of exemptions/allowances to claim on her paycheck.

She did take some of the educational credits she was entitled to but because she didn’t realize the true extent (and calculation) of the tax law and credit available, she didn’t take the full credit.

Positive Review Results

The review I did revealed that extra unclaimed credit and resulted in her owing the IRS $300 instead of $1900. A huge difference, especially considering she hadn’t started to pay those taxes because she didn’t have the money.

We also fixed the number of exemptions/allowances on her paycheck based on her circumstances.

Not Just “Plugging Numbers into a Computer”

After going through this review process my client realized that filing taxes was not simply “plugging numbers into a computer.” She realized that she was good at her job but when it came to tax law and taking advantage of all the credits and deductions she was entitled to, she needed an expert.

She also helped the effort by telling me everything that happened in her financial life over the past three years, no matter how small the event may have seemed. This was important because given the complexity of the American population; the IRS has built in a number of credits and deductions to help taxpayers from different walks of life. Preparers know more about these benefits than taxpayers.

In the end for many Americans preparing taxes may seem like an easy undertaking of just plugging numbers into a computer but if they are not careful, they may be missing out on credits and deductions they are entitled to. Working with a qualified tax preparer can help ensure the right credits and deductions are taken.

 

For more on TaxAssurances, check out our reviews, photos and links on Yelp.