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Tax Advice for Recently Married Couples

Tax Advice for Recently Married Couples

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Daniel Cohen
UpdatedFeb 19, 2015
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    4 min read
Key Takeaways:
  • Inform the IRS about any name change or change of address.
  • Review the amount of taxes you have withheld.
  • Don't keep tax secrets from your spouse.

Six Tax Tips for Couples that Just Got Married.

When planning a wedding, it is likely that how getting married affects your tax status is the furthest thing from your mind. Still, there are important steps that newlywed couples need to take, in order to avoid problems the next time they file taxes.

If you are getting married or are recently married here are some important tips for newlyweds to keep in mind:

  1. Change your address: Not everyone moves after marriage, but if you do, keep the tax authorities informed. It is important that you update the IRS and your state tax authority, whenever you change your address. If the IRS or state does not have your proper address, you won't receive your any important notices or paperwork the IRS or state sends you. If you change your address after filing a return and before receiving your refund, your refund check will likely not make it to you unless you update your address. You can easily update your address with the IRS by submitting a completed IRS Form 8822. Contact your state tax authority directly, to update them.
  2. Report a name change: If you or your spouse changes your name after you get married, make sure that the proper government agencies are updated. Start by contacting the Social Security Administration. You want to make sure that your Social Security number matches the name that you will use when filing your taxes, so your return is processed properly and you get your refund. Also, make sure that the Post Office has your new name and address.
  3. Adjust your withholding: If you and your spouse are going to file a joint tax return, your combined income could push you into a higher tax bracket. Make sure that you are having enough taxes withheld from your pay, so you don't end up unexpectedly owing the IRS or state come tax time. You can use the IRS withholding calculator to figure out how much that you should have withheld.
  4. Inform your employer: Update your employer, so it has your correct name and address. If you want to adjust your withholding status from single to married, you will need to fill out a new IRS W-4 and the equivalent state form. Also makes sure to update your employer about changes to your medical insurance coverage, if you need to make changes to cover your spouse or any children or to cancel your benefits because you are going to get your medical coverage through your spouse. Be ready to provide your employer a new Social Security card, if you have changed names.
  5. Adjust your tax filing status: Start thinking about whether you will want to file your return as "married, filing jointly" or "married, filing separately." There are reasons to file jointly and reasons not to do so. For instance, deductions such as the medical expense deduction require that your medical expenses are 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. If you had high enough medical expenses to qualify for the deduction on your own, filing a joint return may make it so your medical expenses would not be 7.5% of your combined income, and you would not qualify to claim the deduction. The vast majority of married couples file joint returns. In most cases, the total tax liability will be less when you file jointly. Still, it's a good idea to calculate your return both ways, then submit the one that comes out best.
  6. Share bad news: If you have a tax problem, tell your spouse. Don't let the news come from the IRS. One spouse is not responsible for the tax debt the other spouse brings into the marriage (or even a tax debt that comes from a non-joint return filed when married), but a tax debts certainly affects the non-debtor spouse. For instance, if the IRS garnishes your wages because of your tax debt, the loss in income certainly affects your spouse. Jointly held assets, such as a shared bank account are also at risk if only one spouse has a tax debt. Heaven help the spouse who has kept a tax problem secret and then the joint bank account is cleaned out by an IRS levy.

If you are not yet married and have a tax problem, work to resolve the problem before marriage. If you have a large tax debt, speak with a reputable tax professional. You may have better success at resolving your tax problem favorably, before you are married, especially if your spouse earns a decent income. On the other hand, if your spouse does not work, you may want to wait until after the marriage to resolve the tax problem, for any problem where the IRS will look at your household income and household living expenses. Either way, let a tax professional guide you.

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