Married Filing Jointly vs Separately Tax Statuses Explained

December 28, 2022

What's the difference between married filing jointly vs separately and is it better to file taxes jointly or separately when you're married? Find out today.

If you are filing taxes for the first time after getting married, you might have some questions about how to file taxes as a couple, like what's the difference between married filing jointly vs married filing separately? 

When you get married, there are 2 new filing statuses available for you to choose: 

Tax Statuses for Married Couples:

  1. Married Filing Jointly
  2. Married Filing Separately

Each of these 2 tax statuses for married couples comes with its own pros and cons that will determine which status you want to choose. 

Learn more about the differences between married filing jointly vs separately to pick which tax status is right for you in the article below. 

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What is Married Filing Separately?

Married Filing separately definition

Before you can decide between married filing jointly vs separately, you need to answer the question, what is married filing separately?

Understanding the difference will help you answer the question, should I file jointly or separately? 

Married filing separately is a tax status used when you are married, and you and your spouse file your tax returns individually.

This means you will file a tax return, and your spouse will also file their own tax return. Instead of filing one tax return for the both of you, you will both file your own return. 

What is Married Filing Jointly?

married filing jointly definition

Before you can decide between married filing jointly vs separately, you need to answer the question, what is married filing jointly?

Understanding the difference will help you answer the question, should I file jointly or separately? 

Married filing jointly is a tax status used when you are married, and you and your spouse file one tax return together.

This means you and your spouse will file one tax return, and that tax return will be meant for both you and your spouse. 

Married Filing Separately Standard Deductions

50/50 graphic

The married filing separately standard deduction for the 2021 tax year was $12,550 while the deduction in 2022 is $12,950. 

The standard deduction for married couples filing separately changes each year. The standard deduction for all tax filing statuses changes each year.

So each year you will need to check for the new standard deductions available. 

Married Filing Jointly Standard Deductions

married filing jointly graphic

The married filing jointly standard deduction for the 2021 tax year was $25,100 while the deduction in 2022 is $25,900. 

The standard deduction for married couples filing jointly changes each year. The standard deduction for all tax filing statuses changes each year.

So each year you will need to check for the new standard deductions available. 

Married Filing Separately and Itemized Deductions

When filing your taxes separately, you may come across some complications with itemizing deductions.

You and your spouse should sit down and go over who will claim what on their itemized deductions. This will make sure there are no discrepancies between both of your tax returns

two separate tax sheets graphic

If you select the married filing separately tax status, then you and your spouse need to itemize tax deductions separately as well. 

You don’t want to accidentally both claim the same deduction on the same expense. Instead, each spouse itemizes the deductions that they paid for with their accounts. 

Can You File Separately if Married? 

The quick answer to the question, can you file separately if married, is yes!

If you are married, you can still file your tax returns separately. But instead of choosing the single tax status, you'll pick the married filing separately tax status. 

There are many different reasons why some married couples file jointly and why some married couples file separately.

But you are not required to file jointly if you are married, you can still file individually if you want. 

Is There a Difference Between the Married Filing Separately vs Jointly Tax Statuses?

The primary difference between the married filing separately tax status and the married filing jointly tax status is how you file your taxes. 

You might think that you get less money in your standard deduction or in your tax refund depending on what tax status you use: married filing separately or married filing jointly. 

But if you multiply the filing separately tax deductions by 2 people, they actually end up being the same amount.

As far as tax deduction amounts go, there really isn't a difference between how much the household receives for married couples filing jointly vs married couples filing separately. 

The main difference is that these amounts will divide separately between the 2 members of the household instead of together as one lump sum. 

Is It Better to File Taxes Jointly or Separately?

Once you know the main differences between married filing jointly vs separately, you may be wondering, is it better to file taxes jointly or separately?

If there isn't a real difference between deductions for married filing jointly vs separately, then how do you choose? 

Many tax professionals will have their own advice about how to choose between married filing jointly vs separately.

Many may advise that couples choose the married filing jointly status.

The current tax code favors when couples file jointly and offers some extra tax benefits, deductions, and credits to those who do.

But there are scenarios when couples deciding between married filing jointly vs separately may choose the married filing separately status instead.

One of the main reasons is because changes in your total income impact your tax bracket, which impacts your tax rate and taxable income.

Consider Student Loan Payment Plans

graduation hat with money

When choosing between the married filing jointly vs separately tax statuses, consider your student loan payments. 

One reason to use the married filing separately status is due to student loan payments.

If your student loan payment amounts are determined by your annual income, then your annual income and your payment amounts will both increase if you file jointly.

But if you file separately, only your income will be considered in deciding how much you should pay in student loans each month. 

Consider Medical Bill Deductions

medical bill statement graphic

 

When choosing between the married filing jointly vs separately tax statuses, consider medical bill deductions and payments. 

When determining medical bill deductibles, your adjusted gross income plays a big part.

If your adjusted gross income is higher, then you'll be expected to pay higher medical bills. But if your gross income is lower, you can qualify for lower medical bill payments.

Likewise, the amount of medical expenses you can write off during tax season increases when your gross income decreases. 

By filing your taxes separately instead of jointly, only your income will be considered in this process, rather than your income and your spouse's income together. 

Separate Household Finances

household finances split in half graphic

When choosing between the married filing jointly vs separately tax statuses, consider whether you and your spouse maintain separate or jointed household finances. 

Being married doesn't always mean your finances are together. Many couples choose to keep separate finances for many reasons.

If you are one of these couples, it might make more sense for you to file your tax returns separately instead of filing a joint return. 

Separated or in Divorce Proceedings

two homes with money signs graphic

When choosing between the married filing jointly vs separately tax statuses, consider whether you are legally separated or undergoing a divorce. 

If you and your spouse are legally separated or in the middle of divorce proceedings, then you'll most likely want to file separate tax returns.

This will help keep your finances and taxes separate and keep you from being liable for any tax fraud or mistakes on your spouse's part. 

File Both Federal and States Taxes at Check City.

In Conclusion,

Hopefully this article helped you understand the key differences between married filing jointly vs separately.

We hope this article also helped you to see whether married filing jointly vs separately is the right choice for you.

Whenever you have a tax question, like what's the difference between married filing jointly vs separately, you can always ask a friendly tax professional at your local Check City.

Talk with a Tax Filing Professional Today.