If you said "I do," in 2015, cut your cake and hopefully settled into marital bliss, how you file your federal income taxes is going to change in a big way.
In order to avoid more than the usual headaches and frustrations that loom large around April 15, make sure you don't do the following.
1. Trying to file as single
It might seem ridiculously obvious, but some people do get confused about this and cause themselves unnecessary conversations with the IRS.
In a nutshell, you have two choices: Married Filing Jointly and Married Filing Separately. There's no option three even if it will give you a bigger return, so take the ring out of your pocket and slip it back on your finger. The IRS is wise to your ruse. And you really want to avoid a tax audit.
2. Not discussing whether to file jointly or separately
Now that we agree there's no "single" option available, you need to talk with your spouse about the pros and cons of the two options you do have. Don't put it off. Yes, the filing deadline is months away, but, especially if you have debt or old tax lien issues that could impact your return, you need to review your options in detail, potentially with a tax professional.
If you file jointly, your spouse will also be on the hook for what you owe, so filing separately might be the best choice. Also, if you're worried about your spouse falsifying any tax documents, you definitely want to file separately. You're culpable for your spouse's actions if you file jointly.
If you and your spouse don't have to worry about any of the above, there are some nice benefits to filing jointly that you should talk about with your tax professional:
- The Earned Income Tax Credit
- Student loan interest deductions (tips on paying off student loan debt can be found here)
- The child tax credit
- College tuition credits like the American Opportunity Credit and other education tax deductions
3. Failing to review your W-4 withholdings
Now that you're married, you're allowed an additional exemption and a higher standard deduction if you file jointly, so you might want to consider changing your W-4 form with your employer so fewer taxes are deducted from your paycheck.
4. Waiting to change your name
This is another one of those annoying, stand-in-line-at-a-government-office things that you'll need to do (if you plan to change your name), and you'll want to do it sooner rather than later because the Social Security Administration needs to alert the IRS to your name change before you can file.
5. Not amending past returns
If you're a same-sex couple and you've been legally married prior to 2013 when the federal government began allowing couples to file as married, you might want to review your old returns with a tax professional to see if there are any refunds you might be due by refiling as married.