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Tax reduction

I got married this year (2023) would I save more on taxation filing separately using head of household or filing jointly? We have the same employer and make the same amount of money. 

2 Replies
Employee Tax Expert

Tax reduction

Congratulations on the wedding! 


There are five tax filing statuses, and choosing the correct one is important.  The filing statuses are:

  • Single
  • Married Filing Jointly (MFJ)
  • Married Filing Separately (MFS)
  • Head of Household HOH)
  • Qualifying Surviving Spouse (QSS)

With respect to being married, the IRS looks to your marital status as of the last day of the year. So, no matter which day in the year you got married, your marital status for the tax year will be based on your situation on December 31 of the year.  


You are considered married for the whole year if, on the last day of your tax year, you and your spouse meet any one of the following tests.

  1. You are married and living together.
  2. You are living together in a common law marriage recognized in the state where
    you now live or in the state where the common law marriage began.
  3.  You are married and living apart but not legally separated under a decree of divorce
    or separate maintenance.
  4. You are separated under an interlocutory (not final) decree of divorce.

So, if you are considered married as of December 31, you have two options of filing status: either Married Filing Jointly, or Married Filing Separately.  To file a joint return, both you and your spouse have to agree to file a joint return.

NOTE: there is a situation where a married person MAY be able to file as Head of Household, even if still legally married as of the last day of the tax year.  The only way a married person can file Head of Household is if they meet the IRS rules to be "considered unmarried". Generally speaking, you meet this rule if you paid over 1/2 the costs of maintaining your home, and your home was the main home of a qualifying child, AND your spouse did not live in your home during the last six months of the year.  More detailed information on these rules can be found in IRS publication 501, beginning on page 8:  IRS Publication 501 


In your situation, you specifically asked which filing status would be more beneficial.  Based on the above, I presume you will not be meeting the "Considered Unmarried" rules, so your options are MFJ or MFS.  Usually filing jointly is better (or the same) for tax purposes, but that is not always the case. The only way you can tell for sure which gives a better tax answer is to prepare a joint return, then prepare two married filing separate returns (one for you and one for your spouse) - and compare the results of the joint return to the combined results of the two separate returns.

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Tax reduction

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 on Schedule A then the other one must itemize too, even if it's less than the standard deduction, even if it is ZERO!  And if you are in a Community Property state it can be complicated to figure out.


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 …….



Here's some general info on getting married.  Did you both use Turbo Tax last year?


You can not transfer from or combine 2 returns or accounts.  Just pick the return for the spouse that has the most complicated return to enter or has any depreciation or business or  more investments.  Or use the account for whoever you want to be listed first going forward (by the way you can not change the order of the names).  Then add the other spouse's name, ssn and info to it.


You should usually  file a Joint return which is only 1 return combined for the both of you.  Make sure to stick with this one account for the future.  Just ignore the other spouse's account.


Getting Married FAQ



And info on Getting Married…..




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