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Should I file a joint return or a separate return?

My wife is an independent contractor, and her income is low, but I am wondering if there would be advantages to filing separately.
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Expert Alumni

Should I file a joint return or a separate return?

Married filing jointly is most often the best filing status for the lowest amount of tax, while married filing separately eliminates some credits, requires both to itemize deductions if one files that way, regardless if the other spouse has enough deductions.

Best advice is to prepare a married filing joint return and then married filing separately to see what status provides the best overall total tax.  The total tax will be the number on line 12 Form 1040EZ, or line 39 Form 1040A or line 63 Form 1040. 

NOTE:  Check your state tax rules because some states require you to use the same status on the state return that is used on the federal return.

  • To review your Form 1040 in TurboTax Online:
    • Select My Account at the top right
    • Tools
    • View Tax Summary
    • Preview 1040 (above)
  • To review your Form 1040 in TurboTax Desktop:
    • Select Forms in the upper right
    • Click on the Form 1040 in the forms tree list on the left
    • Scroll to page 2, then Preview the tax 
    • Select Step-By-Step to return to the interview 

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