Generally, filing jointly will give you a bigger refund or less taxes due. When you file separately, your tax rate is higher and you won't be able to claim:
- Education benefits
- Earned Income Credit (EIC)
- Child and Dependent Care Credit (usually)
- Adoption Credit (usually)
- The same benefit married filing jointly couples get for itemized deductions, the Child Tax Credit, and capital losses (all of these deductions are reduced by half)
- The standard deduction if your spouse is claiming itemized deductions
On top of that, if you live in the community property states of Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin, you have to deal with community property allocations and adjustments, which adds extra work and complexity to your tax preparation chores.
Tip: Only taxpayers who were still legally married as of December 31, 2020 are able to file as married, whether jointly or separately.
Filing jointly means you file one tax return. When filing separately, you file two tax returns.
- How can we compare married filing jointly with married filing separately?
- Can a married person claim Head of Household filing status?
- What are the qualifications for the Earned Income Credit (EIC or EITC)?
- What is an innocent spouse and how does it differ from an injured spouse?
- What is the Child and Dependent Care Credit?