Couples & Money: Do Whatever Works for the Relationship

I’ve worked in financial services since 2000. During that time, I’ve had a chance to see how couples handle money together. It’s been insightful. Why?

Because when I first started helping clients manage their money I thought that EVERYTHING should be handled together. Helping them ACTUALLY manage their money changed that idea.

What I came to realize and what should have been obvious from the beginning, is that everyone is different. And that includes how people think and feel about money. Some people don’t care that much about it. Others see it as the ultimate form of security. Again, everyone is different.

What has also emerged from these experiences with couples and money is that there are 3 types of money relationships that couples have. Here they are:

  • Everything together
  • Everything separate and
  • Some joint and some separate

I’ll give a quick summary of each.

The first couples’ relationship type is the type that handles everything together. They have nothing but a joint bank account. They do their taxes together. They have joint investment accounts. The home is in both of their names. They see separate anything as almost “hiding” something from the other and could result in problems in the relationship.

The second couples’ relationship type is the type that handles everything separately. They bank separately, they file taxes separately. One doesn’t know what the other has in credit card debt or student loans or anything else. They just allow each other to handle what they are responsible for.

And finally, there are couples that mesh the two prior ideas. They not only have a joint account for shared bills and responsibilities but they also have separate accounts to handle their responsibilities.

But no matter what type of money couple a couple is, I’ve come to realize that as long as the relationship works for them, that’s all that matters.

So when it comes to handling money, couples just need to see what works for them.

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Chapter from TaxAssurances’ Book: Child Tax Credit

 

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 1  Child Tax Credit

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Besides being a blessing to a parent’s life, children can provide some real tax benefits. There are a few to consider.

First and foremost, they increase the number of exemptions and deductions a parent can have on their tax return. That’s a great start. But in this chapter, we’ll specifically discuss the child tax credit.

The $1,000 credit per child helps lower a parent’s tax liability for the year. And parents can use the credit for each one of their children.

There are some requirements to take the child tax credit and the IRS has provided some guidance. Here’s exactly what they say:

A qualifying child for purposes of the child tax credit is a child who:

  1. Is your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, adopted child, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, half-brother, half-sister, or a descendant of any of them (for example, your grandchild, niece, or nephew),
  2. Will be under age 17 at the end of the year,
  3. Did not provide over half of his or her own support for the year,
  4. Lived with you for more than half of the year (with certain exceptions),
  5. Is claimed as a dependent on your return,
  6. Does not file a joint return for the year (or files it only to claim a refund of withheld income tax or estimated tax paid), and  
  7. Was a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national, or a U.S. resident alien. For more information, see Pub. 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens. If the child was adopted, see Adopted child.

Now, it is worth noting that the IRS imposes limits on taking the credit. Also, some parents may not be able to take the credit at all. Here’s what they says about those limits specifically:

You must reduce the maximum credit amount of $1,000 for each child if either (1) or (2) applies. 

  1. The amount on Form 1040, line 47; Form 1040A, line 30; or Form 1040NR, line 45, is less than the credit. If this amount is zero, you cannot take this credit because there is no any tax to reduce. But you may be able to take the additional child tax credit. This credit is for certain individuals who get less than the full amount of the child tax credit. The additional child tax credit may give you a refund even if you do not owe any tax. 
  1. Your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) is more than the amount shown below for your filing status. 
  1. Married filing jointly – $110,000. 
  1. Single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er) – $75,000. 
  1. Married filing separately – $55,000.

Now if that seems confusing don’t worry. The tax prep software works out the details for you. Just know that it is a credit that should appear on your tax return if you qualify.

So if you’re a parent that meets all of these qualifications, make sure you include all your child’s information on your tax return. It can help lower your taxes and potentially get you a larger tax refund.

For more information about the child tax credit and the additional child tax credit, read IRS Publication 972 on the IRS.gov website.

Again, You can purchase the full book on Amazon.

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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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Married? File Taxes Jointly

Taxes_DueDuring a recent tax filing season, a new tax client of mine openly cried at my desk because of her newly discovered $8,800 tax bill to the IRS and $2,200 tax bill to New York State. All primarily because she filed her taxes “married filing separately” instead of “married filing jointly” with her husband.

Married Filing Separately

Federal and state governments want legally married couples to file their taxes together and to encourage them governments don’t allow certain credits, deductions and exemptions for couples who file “separately.” It also puts couples who file “separately” in a higher tax bracket then those who file “jointly.”

Taxes for 1099 Independent Contract Work

My client also got the new tax bills because she worked as a 1099 independent contractor during the year outside of her normal 9-5 and did not pay taxes on that income throughout the year. $18,000 worth of self employment income.

W4 Exemptions/Allowances

To cap off her problems and to make matters worse, her job in the social services field did not take out enough in taxes every paycheck to meet her tax obligations for the year. Had she simply put zero or one on line 5 of her W-4 form, her employer would have taken out more each paycheck to meet her tax obligation.

Tax Solutions

To make my client’s life better going forward, I gave her a number of recommendations. First, I talked with her about the differences between filing separately and filing jointly. She’s going to try to work with her husband on that. Next, I gave her the necessary paperwork she’ll need to pay her estimated taxes for her self-employment.

Then, I told her to talk with her employer about changing her exemptions/allowances so she can make them as low as possible. That way more taxes are taken out of her paycheck then needed. Finally, I gave her the websites for the IRS and New York State to work out a payment plan for her outstanding debt. With all of this hopefully we’ll have a much better tax prep experience next year.

 

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