Married Filing Separately- Here’s What You Need to Know

Married Filing Separately- Here’s What You Need to Know

Marriage can bring about the merging of responsibilities for a couple including combining accounts and assets. However, couples may find that some “separation” might be the best bet for them. This can be true in the case of filing taxes. Married couples, including those that are separated, can choose to file their taxes jointly or separately. While one may think the obvious choice is to file jointly, there are some advantages to filing separately for those who qualify. Married filing separately is a tax filing in which a legally married couple record their individual incomes, liabilities, and deductions separately. For some, married filing separately may seem counterintuitive at first glance, but there are some real advantages for those who qualify.

What are some advantages of filing separate tax returns?

  • One spouse has substantial medical expenses
  • One spouse has itemized deductions that will ultimately reduce income
  • Both spouses make roughly the same amount of money
  • A couple is separated or filing for divorce
  • One spouse owes a large sum in taxes (filing jointly could result in an IRS lien or levy)

What is required for married filing separately?

  • The couple must live or have lived in the same house during the filing year.
  • Combined gross income, half of social security benefits, and all tax-exempt interest must total more than $25,000
  • You and your spouse must both file separate tax returns.

While married filing separately may sound appealing, don’t make any changes in your tax filings just yet. Some couples may feel that combining incomes will push them into a higher tax bracket, therefore allowing access to more taxable income, but the IRS has numerous programs to mitigate this and other concerns. If one spouse makes significantly more (or less) than the other, filing separately may be a good option. There are some definite tax breaks and benefits for couples filing their taxes jointly. When deciding on the best approach to take for filing your taxes, the income of both spouses should be a consideration. Some of the tax breaks include:

  • The American Opportunity Tax Credit, which requires a modified adjusted gross income for couples filing jointly
  • The Child and Dependent tax credit
  • Education tax credits
  • The Earned Income Tax Credit can be claimed


There are certainly some huge advantages to filing your taxes as married filing separately with your spouse but if  you do not qualify under any of the terms listed above, it’s best to file as married filing jointly in order to take advantage of the tax incentives for filing this way.

The best way to determine how you and your spouse should file your taxes may simply be to explain your situation to a professional to let them help you make the right choice. You can also do your taxes both ways to see which is most beneficial. Just be sure not the go all the way to the end to complete the filing process until you’re sure how you want to handle things.

Contact Us

I am Maine’s IRS Problem Solver. My firm helps Maine taxpayers in trouble. If you or someone you know in Southern Maine wants more information on how to resolve your unpaid taxes, please feel free to contact me directly at 207-502-7181 or by filing out my contact form. A Maine tax attorney can help you consider your options.

James D. Wade, Esq.
Law Office of James D. Wade
57 Portland Road, Unit 3
Kennebunk, ME 04043