Can one spouse or the other avoid paying taxes on a joint tax?
Tax law does not require married couples to file joint income tax returns simply by virtue of being married. So there is no such thing as a “joint tax” in that regard.
Spouses have the option of filing jointly or separately but are not required to file jointly.
Most married couples choose to file their tax returns jointly because there are generally greater tax savings and refunds available to those who file jointly.
This article also has some very interesting, very useful information about when it may make sense for a married couple to file their income tax returns separately. I have provided some excerpts below.
When married couples should file separate tax returns (by Ray Martin, CBS MoneyWatch)
“Unreimbursed medical expenses
“Unreimbursed out-of-pocket medical expenses can be claimed as an itemized deduction for amounts that exceed 7.5 percent of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income. But if a couple has AGI of $140,000 and one spouse has incurred $10,000 of out-of-pocket medical expenses, none of these medical costs are eligible because they don’t exceed the 7.5 percent threshold, which in this example would be $10,500.
“However, if this couple files separately and the one who incurred the medical expenses of $10,000 has AGI of just $30,000, then $7,750 of the medical expenses could be eligible. Combined with other allowable deductions (charitable donations, mortgage interest, the SALT deduction limit of $5,000 for a married separate filer), this could significantly exceed the standard deduction for separate filers, which is $12,000 for each.
“You don’t trust your spouse
“A very good reason good reason to file separately is because you don’t feel comfortable signing a joint tax return with your spouse, which both spouses must do when filing jointly. When you file jointly, you take full responsibility with your spouse, and both signers are responsible for the completeness and accuracy of the entire tax return, and each will each bear full responsibility to the IRS for any additional tax, penalty or interest due on an incorrect tax return.
“If you don’t want to merge your tax life with your partner, choosing the separate filing status offers a degree of financial protection because you’re responsible only for your own separately filed tax return.
“Another good reason to file separate tax returns is that you and your spouse live separately but aren’t yet divorced. In that case, separate returns can help keep your finances separate. This can be especially beneficial if one of the spouses can qualify for head of household status because he or she is supporting the dependent children.
“The marriage penalty
“Another closely related tax topic involving marital status concerns the so-called marriage penalty. It refers to the situation when two people with the same income would pay more tax if they get married and file a joint return than if they stay single and file separately as singles.”
To find out whether it makes sense for you and your spouse to file separately or jointly, it’s worth consulting an accountant or tax preparer now, so that you are prepared to file your best return come April 15th. The fee charged for a consultation is well worth it for what it can save you in taxes.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277