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MaxJamison
Returning Member

Married Filing Separately Penalty

I am a widower who remarried in October 2019.  But we didn't start living together until March 2020.  I paid no taxes on my social security in 2019, but over 50% of my social security became taxable in 2020.  What is the logic for penalizing me for living with my wife?

3 Best answer

Accepted Solutions
VolvoGirl
Level 15

Married Filing Separately Penalty

Ask your congressman.  There are many filing rules that might not make sense.  

View solution in original post

macuser_22
Level 15

Married Filing Separately Penalty

Ask Congress - they passed the law.     Do politicians need a reason or are reasonable?

**Disclaimer: This post is for discussion purposes only and is NOT tax advice. The author takes no responsibility for the accuracy of any information in this post.**

View solution in original post

MaxJamison
Returning Member

Married Filing Separately Penalty

Thanks for confirming what I already knew:  I am being unreasonably penalized for living with my wife while MFS.  BTW, we keep our finances separate so our children will not squabble over co-mingled inheritances.

View solution in original post

15 Replies
DoninGA
Level 15

Married Filing Separately Penalty

Up to 85% of Social Security Retirement/Disability/Survivors benefits becomes taxable when all your other income plus 1/2 your social security reaches:

  • Married Filing Jointly - $32,000
  • Single or Head of Household - $25,000
  • Married Filing Separately - 0

Why did you not file as Married Filing Jointly since you were legally married in 2020?

MaxJamison
Returning Member

Married Filing Separately Penalty

Because my wife wants to keep our finances separate.

DoninGA
Level 15

Married Filing Separately Penalty


@MaxJamison wrote:

Because my wife wants to keep our finances separate.


Then you will have to accept how the SS benefits are taxes when filing separately.  You both also have use the Standard Deduction or you both have to use the itemized deductions when filing separately.

MaxJamison
Returning Member

Married Filing Separately Penalty

You didn't answer my question.  What is the reasoning for penalizing me for filing married separately living together this year than married separately living apart last year?  I don't get it.

macuser_22
Level 15

Married Filing Separately Penalty

MFS has many limitations and that is one of them.     Filing a tax return does not mean your financed are combined - it is for tax purposes only.      A rather expensive way to have separate returns. 

 

If you file MFS (Married Filing Separately) keep in mind that there are several limitations to MFS.  Married filing Jointly is usually the better way to file.
 
A few of those limitations are: (see IRS Pub 17 for the full list

https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p17.pdf page 21

1. Your tax rate generally is higher than on a joint return.
2. Your exemption amount for figuring the alternative minimum tax is half that allowed on a joint return.
3. You cannot take the credit for child and dependent care expenses in most cases, and the amount you can exclude from income under an employer's dependent care assistance you are legally separated or living apart from your spouse, you may be able to file a separate return and still take the credit. For more information about these expenses, the credit, and the exclusion, see chapter 32.
4. You cannot take the earned income credit.
5. You cannot take the exclusion or credit for adoption expenses in most cases.
6. You cannot take the education credits (the American opportunity credit and lifetime learning credit) or the deduction for student loan interest.
7. You cannot exclude any interest income from qualified U.S. savings bonds you used for higher education expenses.
8. If you lived with your spouse at any time during the tax year:
a. You cannot claim the credit for the elderly or the disabled, and
b. You must include in income a greater percentage (up to 85%) of any social security or equivalent railroad retirement benefits you received.
9. The following credits and deductions are reduced at income levels half those for a joint return:
a. The child tax credit,
b. The retirement savings contributions credit,
10. Your capital loss deduction limit is $1,500 (instead of $3,000 on a joint return).
11. If your spouse itemizes deductions, you cannot claim the standard deduction. If you can claim the standard deduction, your basic standard deduction is half the amount allowed on a joint return.

- If you live in a community property state you must allocate community income between both spouses..
-
- Community property states.   If you live in Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin and file separately, your income may be considered separate income or community income for income tax purposes. See Publication 555. http://www.irs.gov/publications/p555/index.html

 
See this TurboTax article for help with this.
https://ttlc.intuit.com/questions/1894449-married-filing-jointly-vs-married-filing-separately

https://ttlc.intuit.com/questions/1901162-married-filing-separately-in-community-property-states

**Disclaimer: This post is for discussion purposes only and is NOT tax advice. The author takes no responsibility for the accuracy of any information in this post.**
MaxJamison
Returning Member

Married Filing Separately Penalty

We both itemize because it is to both of our benefits.

MaxJamison
Returning Member

Married Filing Separately Penalty

You're still not answering my question.  WHY is this a MFS limitation?  What is the logic?  It makes no sense to me.

MaxJamison
Returning Member

Married Filing Separately Penalty

I already read that.  But it doesn't say WHY.

VolvoGirl
Level 15

Married Filing Separately Penalty

Ask your congressman.  There are many filing rules that might not make sense.  

View solution in original post

macuser_22
Level 15

Married Filing Separately Penalty

Ask Congress - they passed the law.     Do politicians need a reason or are reasonable?

**Disclaimer: This post is for discussion purposes only and is NOT tax advice. The author takes no responsibility for the accuracy of any information in this post.**

View solution in original post

MaxJamison
Returning Member

Married Filing Separately Penalty

Thanks for confirming what I already knew:  I am being unreasonably penalized for living with my wife while MFS.  BTW, we keep our finances separate so our children will not squabble over co-mingled inheritances.

View solution in original post

SweetieJean
Level 15

Married Filing Separately Penalty

My understanding is that Married Filing Separately is intended to be used by couples that are living separately because their marriage is essentially over.  Congress didn't want married couples that are together to "game the system" by filing MFS.

 

There are many such measures in place.  The Kiddie Tax is another example, as it is intended to prevent parents from assigning income to their dependents just to take advantage of a lower tax rate.

SweetieJean
Level 15

Married Filing Separately Penalty

@MaxJamison  You might wish to see an attorney to explore other ways to achieve your goals, such as a Post Nup or Trust agreement.

macuser_22
Level 15

Married Filing Separately Penalty


@MaxJamison wrote:

Thanks for confirming what I already knew:  I am being unreasonably penalized for living with my wife while MFS.  BTW, we keep our finances separate so our children will not squabble over co-mingled inheritances.


Your tax returns are irrelevant in determining inheritances.     State laws dictate what is to be included.  If you live in a community property state then almost anything purchased or earned after marriage is already mingled.

 

If that is what you are trying to do then tax returns will not do it, you should see an estate planner and possibly setup trust accounts.

**Disclaimer: This post is for discussion purposes only and is NOT tax advice. The author takes no responsibility for the accuracy of any information in this post.**
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