Tax law dictates that if you are legally married as of Dec. 31 of the tax year you are filing, then you need to either file jointly (combining all income streams for both partners) or separately (splitting the different income streams out for each partner, but still filing as "married).
Generally speaking, you're not allowed to file single if you are legally married (there are some exceptions for situations involving domestic violence or separations where partners are not living together, but special rules apply in those situations).
Filing jointly typically produces a better result, but with the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act it's gotten a little more vague and sometimes filing separately is better.
Notes About Filing Jointly
- The reason this can be an advantageous situation is when one partner earns more than that other. In that case, the overall tax rate for higher earner is often lower.
- The standard deduction is also higher for joint filers, and that can be helpful in many cases.
Notes About Filing Separately
- You both have to make the same choice: either to itemize or take the standard deduction. You cannot each choose something different.
- If you file separately, some credits become disallowed. A lot of people who file separately choose to because of income based student loan repayments.
When we prep your return we automatically check both ways to determine the best result for you, but feel free to ask what the end result is of each option if you are curious! Sign up for an account today so we can have a look.