The Difference Between Filing Separately and Jointly

Married couples may find it easier to file one single joint tax return, especially if one spouse is responsible for a majority of the couple’s income. In cases where both spouses earn income, the option to file separately may be more beneficial in regards to providing a lower tax liability. However, couples should always figure their return using both methods to see which option is best.

When filing a separate return, typically taxpayers are subject to a higher tax rate. Though if you have a lot of deductions, you may find that filing separately can reap a greater saving for you and your spouse together. By filing separately, you can claim larger medical expenses, casualties, and additional costs due to a lower adjusted gross income requirement. If one spouse earns significantly more of the joint income, then the tax rate might vary with each type of return, though typically the separate and joint rates are similar.

If you don’t want to be held accountable for your spouse’s tax liability, you should consider filing a separate return. This way, you can avoid being liable to pay any taxes, interest, or penalties due to evasion, misrepresentation of income, or erroneous deductions. However, if you chose to file separately, you and your spouse must use the same method of deduction. You can either itemize or take the standard deduction, which is equal to $6,200 for the current tax year. This means that if your spouse files Schedule A of Form 1040 and choses to itemize deductions, then you must also do the same, even if your itemized total is less than the $6,200.