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If filing Married Filing Separately does each spouse itemize the same deductions on their separate returns?

2 Replies
Level 15

If filing Married Filing Separately does each spouse itemize the same deductions on their separate returns?

Well if one spouse itemizes then the other spouse must also itemize even if it is less than the Standard Deduction. No you do not each deduct the same amount.  But you can split up the deductions.  Like you can both deduct mortgage interest but not more than 100% combined. So you could each deduct 50% or split it up.  


Do you live together?  Do you have children?  If you don't live together one of you might qualify for Head of Household.  


Unless you have a specific reason to file separate returns,

It is usually better to file Joint. Joint has the lowest tax rates and the highest Standard Deduction.   And if you are in a Community Property state MFS gets tricky to figure out.  Here's some things to consider about filing separately……


In the first place you each have to file a separate return, so that's two returns.  And if you are using the Online version that means using 2 accounts and paying the fees twice.  


Many people think they come out better when filing Married Filing Separate but they are probably doing it wrong.  If one person itemizes deductions then the other one must itemize too, even if it's less than the standard deduction, even if it is ZERO!  


And there are several credits you can't take when filing separately, like the

EITC Earned Income Tax Credit

Child Care Credit

Educational Deductions and Credits


And contributions to IRA and ROTH IRA are limited when you file MFS.


Also if you file Married Filing Separately up to 85`% of your Social Security becomes taxable right away even with zero other income.


See …….



Level 15

If filing Married Filing Separately does each spouse itemize the same deductions on their separate returns?

NO ... it means that each will claim their own itemized deductions.   If they choose to do so they can split common deductions like RE taxes & mortgage interest in any way they see fit as long as no more than 100% of the expense is claimed between the 2 returns.   DO NOT DOUBLE the deductions as this will get you an IRS audit letter for sure. 






If you were legally married at the end of 2019 your filing choices are married filing jointly or married filing separately.


Married Filing Jointly is usually better, even if one spouse had little or no income. When you file a joint return, you and your spouse will get the married filing jointly standard deduction of $24,000 (+$1300 for each spouse 65 or older)  You are eligible for more credits including education credits, earned income credit, child and dependent care credit, and a larger income limit to receive the child tax credit.


If you choose to file married filing separately, both spouses have to file the same way—either you both itemize or you both use standard deduction. Your tax rate will be higher than on a joint return. Some of the special rules for filing separately include: you cannot get earned income credit, education credits, adoption credits, or deductions for student loan interestA higher percent of your Social Security benefits may be taxable. Your limit for SALT (state and local taxes and sales tax) will be only $5000 per spouse. In many cases you will not be able to take the child and dependent care credit. The amount you can contribute to a retirement account will be affected. If you live in a community property state, you will be required to provide additional information regarding your spouse’s income. ( Community property states:  AZ, CA, ID, LA, NV, NM, TX, WA, WI) If  you are using online TurboTax to prepare your returns, you will need to prepare two separate returns and pay twice.

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