Q. Does the Retirement Savers Credit need both spouses to be contributing to a plan to get the maximum credit?
Q. I've been having difficulty tracking down exactly how the Retirement Savers Credit works for Married Filing Jointly filers.
A. Follow the steps (lines) on form 8880. https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8880.pdf There are two columns, one for each spouse. The 2nd spouse does not get to use the 1st spouse's contributions.
Q. I've read that married filing jointly filers get a maximum. But Form 8880 makes it look like that is per filer.
A. You read wrong. It is "per filer", or more specifically per retirement plan contributor.
Q. It seems a bit unfair to families that focus on maxing out one person's retirement account.
A. Not really. The credit is for individuals saving for retirement, not families.
Note for others reading this: poster refers to "getting a maximum $2000 credit". That amount is for his AGI and the maximum qualifying contribution amount of $4000 ($2000 per spouse). See the table on form 8880 for credit calculations.