How to File Joint Taxes: 7 Tips For Your First Tax Season When Married
If you’ve recently gotten married, things are about to change with your taxes. Here’s our guide on how to file joint taxes so you can have a simple tax season.
Every year, more than 2.2 million couples get married. While it’s a time of joy and celebration, getting married can also make finances a lot more confusing.
If you’re like most couples, you’re likely starting to worry about the upcoming tax season. Filing jointly with your spouse can be a great option, but where do you start? Is it really that different from filing on your own?
The simple answer is, “yes,” but where do you start? Here are a few tips to make understanding how to file joint taxes as easy as possible.
- Get Started Early
When it comes to filing your taxes, it’s always best to start as early as you can, especially if you’re filing jointly for the first time.
As soon as you and your spouse get your W-2s from your employers, you’re able to start filling out the forms. The sooner you start, the longer you’ll have to track down any missing documents or correct errors that could delay your return.
Try to set aside time to sit with your spouse and go over the necessary documents together. If either of you have questions or concerns, work through them together before submitting your final return by the deadline.
- Make Sure It’s the Best Option
Believe it or not, filing jointly isn’t always the best option for married couples. Sometimes, it can end up costing you more in taxes than filing separately.
It all comes down to your income. Your combined incomes can push you into a higher tax bracket. The higher your tax bracket is, the more money you have to pay the government.
If you’re making significantly more together, it may be better to file separately. When you file separately, you still have to declare your marriage to the IRS, but your two incomes will get treated separately.
This will let you keep your lower tax bracket. Keep in mind that it may also keep you from qualifying for certain deductions.
- Update Your Info with Your Employer
If you haven’t already, you’ll want to update your tax withholding information with your employer. When you get married, you may want to increase the amount of money withheld from your paycheck regardless of whether you file taxes jointly or not.
The more that’s withheld from your paycheck, the less you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket at tax time.
If you don’t update your withholding information, you could end up owing more than you expect after you file. The last thing any newlywed couple wants to deal with is a surprise tax bill when you expected a refund.
- Compile All Necessary Documents
Unless you have extremely simple circumstances, you’ll need more than just your W-2 to file taxes. Start compiling those documents as soon as you can.
Hold onto all receipts you’re planning to use for deductions. Keep track of any mortgage statements you’ve received throughout the year and compile all documents that could even potentially help with your taxes.
It’s always best to overprepare and have more documentation than you really need.
- Consider Working with an Accountant
Filing taxes is always complicated and if you’ve never filed jointly before, you can expect your tax situation to be different than you’re used to. There are more complications, more potential deductions, and different concerns to worry about.
The best thing you can do when filing jointly for the first time is to work with an accountant. They’ll be able to help you find deductions and file the right way to maximize your returns.
Just remember to shop around. Every accountant has different tax preparation fees for their services. Choose a professional that has the experience you’re looking for at a price you can afford.
If you don’t want to pay someone to do your taxes for you, consider filling out two returns. Fill one out as a joint return and the other as a separate return.
See which one gives you the best deal.
- Report All Income for Both of You
The IRS expects you to report every bit of income you bring in, no matter how you earned it. This includes side hustles, cash tips, and even gambling winnings.
If you don’t report your full income, you pay less than you’re legally required to. While this saves you money initially, it can lead to major issues down the line. If the IRS catches you, you will get audited.
During audits, the IRS inspects your finances, tax filings, and bank statements in detail. If they determine that you owe them money, you’ll have to pay the amount plus any fines or fees assessed on you and your spouse.
- Make Sure Your Name Change Gets Processed
If you change your name after you get married, you need to make sure it’s filed with the Social Security Administration before you file your tax return. If it’s not, the IRS may take longer to process your return.
This is because the IRS expects the name you use and the name on-file with your social security number to match. If they don’t, it could look like someone is trying to commit tax fraud. The IRS then has to verify whether there’s an error with the return or a problem with the Social Security Administration’s information.
In most cases, this will get resolved in a few weeks, but it can significantly delay your return.
Stay on top of things by making your name change official as soon as possible. If you don’t or you forgot to get it taken care of after your wedding, you’ll need to use your legal name when you file taxes, even if you file jointly.
The Secret to How to File Joint Taxes Is in the Details
No one looks forward to tax time. It’s stressful, confusing, and the deadline always manages to sneak up on you. When you’re filing jointly for the first time, you can expect it to be even more confusing.
These tips should help take the mystery out of how to file joint taxes for the first time. Just remember that every person’s tax situation is different and yours might change from year to year. If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to get help and let a pro make sure your taxes are properly filed.
For more helpful tips on streamlining your finances, check out our latest posts.