Married couples who want to avoid filing taxes jointly due to one spouse owing a significant amount of money or out of sheer desire can learn how to file taxes if married and filing separately.
- Make sure you are considered married. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) considers people legally married when married before or on December 31 of the tax year. If spouses are living separately, they may be considered unmarried. Additionally, if your spouse died during the year, you will still be considered married.
- Calculate the tax bill using both married filing statuses. In some cases, a couple’s tax bill may be lower if both file jointly as opposed to separately. However, in most cases, the tax rate will be higher when a married couple files separately. There are special rules to filing taxes separately if you're married which increases the combined tax on separate returns.
- Choose the proper forms. If a couple decides to file taxes as married filing separately, a form 1040A or form 1040 may be used. The filing status may be selected by choosing the box located on line 3 of either form. The spouse's name and social security number must be entered in the provided space. Make use of the Married Filing Separately column of the Tax Table, otherwise known as Section C, within the Tax Computation Worksheet in order to figure your tax owed.
- Special rules in declaring married filing separately status. Filing married but separately for taxes comes with a few forfeits. When a couple files married but separately, both individuals give up the right to claim head of household. Additionally, couples who choose to file taxes married but separately cannot take the earned income credit and cannot take the credit for child and dependent care expenses in most cases.
Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Publication 501 – Main Content : Married Filing Separately.