So, I hear you got married. Congrats! And you’re filing your taxes jointly for the first time, and want to know more about how to do that! Is that right? Just so you know, you don’t have to file jointly, but those romantics at the IRS set up some great tax breaks for marriage. First, by filing jointly you get double the deduction in half the time. So, what the heck does that mean? I’ll break it all down for you.
One Tax Return
This year, you get to file together, and only do one tax return! So half the time, plus some good ol’ taxes quality time. Another perk that is commonly cited is you get to double your tax deduction. Last year the single standard deduction is $12,000, and, actually this year it’s actually higher: $12,400. But, now that two have become one, your deduction has too! Filing as a couple doubles your standard deduction to $24,800.
Doubling Your Deduction
Last year the single standard deduction was $12,400, and, actually this year it’s actually higher: $12,550. But, now that two have become one, your deduction has too! Filing as a couple doubles your standard deduction to $25,100.
You may also qualify for some other credits as a married couple. There’s a Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, an adoption credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit. If you got an extension and still haven’t filed for last year, I would double check with a tax professional to see if you can qualify there. Otherwise, keep it in mind for the future.
The Set Up
First thing’s first… you probably told your family that you were getting hitched, but you also have to tell Uncle Sam… and you do that by filing a form, Form 8822, to be exact. Have you done that? If not, do it now! Next! Did you take your spouse’s last name? Okay, so the Social Security Administration isn’t as romantic as the IRS and you can get your tax refund withheld if the name associated with your Social Security number matches the name on your tax forms. To tell the Social Security Administration, there’s a…you got it…another form: Form SS-5. Did you fill that out? If not, do it now!
Time to File
Once you’ve done those two things, you’re ready to file as a married couple, if you’re still thinking about this, if you haven’t filed for an extension from last year, or as a jump start for this year’s taxes. It’s actually the same form as if you’re filing as “single,” you’ll just notice there’s a box for your spouse’s name. And voila! All that said, there are some rare-ish instances where it makes more sense to file separately – like if one of you is in student or medical debt, or if you have kids, in some cases. Use this calculator from the Tax Policy Center so you can double check!
It pays to get married, so it’s definitely in your best interest to file jointly! But first… you need to do a little paperwork. It’s not that hard and filing jointly doesn’t have to be a complicated thing. You can even make it a fun newlywed project.
A version of this article was originally published on Forbes.