After you say, “I do” you’ll have two filing status options to choose from when filing your 2012 tax returns: married filing jointly, or married filing separately.
Married Filing Jointly
You can choose married filing jointly as your filing status if you are married and both you and your spouse agree to file a joint return. On a joint return, you report your combined income and deduct your combined allowable expenses. You can file a joint return even if one of you had no income or deductions.
If you and your spouse decide to file a joint return, your tax may be lower than your combined tax for the other filing statuses. Also, your standard deduction (if you do not itemize) may be higher, and you may qualify for tax benefits that do not apply to other filing statuses.
Joint Responsibility. Both of you may be held responsible, jointly and individually, for the tax and any interest or penalty due on your joint return. One spouse may be held responsible for all the tax due even if all the income was earned by the other spouse.
Married Filing Separately
If you are married, you can also choose married filing separately as your filing status. This filing status may benefit you if you want to be responsible only for your own tax or if it results in less tax than filing a joint return. If one spouse Itemizes then so must the other. If you qualify for EIC, Married Filing Separate disqualifies you from this credit.
Injured or Innocent Spouse Relief
You may be an injured spouse if you file a joint tax return and all or part of your portion of a refund was, or is expected to be, applied to your spouse’s legally enforceable past due financial obligations. Here are several facts about claiming injured or innocent spouse relief.
1. To be considered an injured spouse you must have paid federal income tax or claimed a refundable tax credit, such as the Earned Income Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit on the joint return, and not be legally obligated to pay the past-due debt.
2. Special rules apply in community property states.
3. If you filed a joint return and you’re not responsible for the debt, but you are entitled to a portion of the refund, you may request your portion of the refund by filing Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, which may be filed electronically with your original tax return or by itself after you receive an IRS notice about the offset. If you need assistance with this, please call us.
4. If you are claiming innocent spouse relief you must file Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief. This relief from joint liability applies only in certain limited circumstances. However, in 2011 the IRS eliminated the two-year time limit that applies to certain relief requests.
© 2013, Bruce McFarland. All rights reserved.