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ehall
New Member

Can we use the married filing jointly status if we are not residents of the same state and neither of us live in a state that has legal separation laws?

My state of residence is VA.  I work in VA, my driver's licence is VA, I pay VA state income tax, and I rent an apartment in VA.  My husband's state of residence is PA, he owns a house there (my name is NOT on the mortgage)  and he pays PA state income tax.  This situation has only been going on in 2015. We both filed our taxes as married filing separately and it was a big problem.  My husband ended up owing taxes to federal, and I couldn't deduct my student loan interest and my refund was 12 bucks (federal).   We do not have any kind of court order for separation.  I spend only a few days every month in PA.  My husband has never been to VA the entire time I have been living there.  I assume because we live apart in separate residences in different states that we cannot file jointly.  I don't owe income tax to the state of PA, and he does not owe any to VA.  This made sense to me.  But we missed out on some big deductions because of this. What should our filing status be in order to not miss out on deductions?  

1 Best answer

Accepted Solutions
Opus 17
Level 15

Can we use the married filing jointly status if we are not residents of the same state and neither of us live in a state that has legal separation laws?

On the federal tax return, a married couple can always file jointly as long as they both agree to do so, whether they live apart for job, military service, incarceration, marital unhappiness, or any other reason.  As you found out, separate filing wipes out several important tax benefits.  If you already filed separately, you can amend to a joint return.  You would amend one of the separate returns as joint and mail it in.  When it is processed, it will automatically cancel both separate returns.  However, amending a separate to a joint return requires some manual adjustments that can only be done using Turbotax installed on your own computer, not online.

However, file joint federal return usually means you also have to file joint state returns, and this could subject your income to PA tax and his income to VA tax.  There are some offsets involved, and your combined state tax should not end up higher than single state tax in the highest tax state.  Assuming VA has higher taxes than PA (just a guess) then you would probably not be hurt by filing joint but your husband might owe more state tax than the benefit he would get back on federal.

This is a complicated situation and you may want to review it with a tax professional.  There are limited situations where you can file joint federal and separate state, I can't even begin to figure out how those rules will apply to you without doing a lot of research (in states where I don't live!)

In turbotax, I would start by creating a new online account using Turbotax Deluxe to calculate and prepare a joint federal return with two states, and see how the numbers look (you can start for free--don't pay to file at the end because you can't file this return.)

If joint filing looks good, the next step would be to purchase a copy of Turbotax installed on your own computer, or see if you can get one for free from customer support depending on how much you paid to file your original separate return.  In the end you could end up needing to prepare several different returns (amended federal, amended states with joint, amended states with separate, etc.)  Start by trying the joint federal/joint state and see what happens.

*Answers are correct to the best of my ability at the time of posting but do not constitute legal or tax advice.*

View solution in original post

3 Replies
Opus 17
Level 15

Can we use the married filing jointly status if we are not residents of the same state and neither of us live in a state that has legal separation laws?

On the federal tax return, a married couple can always file jointly as long as they both agree to do so, whether they live apart for job, military service, incarceration, marital unhappiness, or any other reason.  As you found out, separate filing wipes out several important tax benefits.  If you already filed separately, you can amend to a joint return.  You would amend one of the separate returns as joint and mail it in.  When it is processed, it will automatically cancel both separate returns.  However, amending a separate to a joint return requires some manual adjustments that can only be done using Turbotax installed on your own computer, not online.

However, file joint federal return usually means you also have to file joint state returns, and this could subject your income to PA tax and his income to VA tax.  There are some offsets involved, and your combined state tax should not end up higher than single state tax in the highest tax state.  Assuming VA has higher taxes than PA (just a guess) then you would probably not be hurt by filing joint but your husband might owe more state tax than the benefit he would get back on federal.

This is a complicated situation and you may want to review it with a tax professional.  There are limited situations where you can file joint federal and separate state, I can't even begin to figure out how those rules will apply to you without doing a lot of research (in states where I don't live!)

In turbotax, I would start by creating a new online account using Turbotax Deluxe to calculate and prepare a joint federal return with two states, and see how the numbers look (you can start for free--don't pay to file at the end because you can't file this return.)

If joint filing looks good, the next step would be to purchase a copy of Turbotax installed on your own computer, or see if you can get one for free from customer support depending on how much you paid to file your original separate return.  In the end you could end up needing to prepare several different returns (amended federal, amended states with joint, amended states with separate, etc.)  Start by trying the joint federal/joint state and see what happens.

*Answers are correct to the best of my ability at the time of posting but do not constitute legal or tax advice.*
fanfare
Level 15

Can we use the married filing jointly status if we are not residents of the same state and neither of us live in a state that has legal separation laws?

You can file an amended return for 2014 to change your status to MFJ.

ehall
New Member

Can we use the married filing jointly status if we are not residents of the same state and neither of us live in a state that has legal separation laws?

Hello.  

 

I'm the person who asked this question.  If you are in this same situation the short answer is you CANNOT use turbo tax to file your second state return.  I was able to file the federal jointly, but only one of the state returns.  I followed the advice in the accepted answer only it's slightly wrong.  While you can open a new return and go through the steps Turbotax will NOT allow you to file that state filing without filing the federal return first.   It simply refuses and when you try to submit state alone it will tell you that you can't without filing a federal return first, and obviously you can't file this IRS return.   So if you try to use this solution you'll just end up paying for a state return filing that you can't use.  

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