Federal Taxes when Married Couples should File Separately

For a married couple, sharing their taxes could reap benefits in most instances. However, there are instances, in which filing separately would be beneficial as well as prudent. In doing so, unless such instances are recognized accurately, the cost of filing separately may exceed the benefits expected.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States Department of Treasury offers two options for married couples when filing for taxes. Joint filing is the usual strategy undertaken by many married couples, which will allow them to take advantage of tax credit and other benefits while enjoying a lower tax rate. Such advantages may not be available when each spouse files separately.

According to industry experts, there are few clear instances where filing separately may be the best choice both in terms of tax benefits as well as in terms of security.

So, what are these instances?

-When one spouse has a large amount of unreimbursed medical expenses.

According to IRS, in order to deduct unreimbursed medical expenses, it should excess 7.5% of the adjusted gross income (AGI). When filing jointly, the AGI would be higher than each individual income and the chances of unreimbursed medical expenses exceeding 7.5% of AGI would be minimal.

-When the expected miscellaneous deductions are high

When the miscellaneous deductions play a major part in ones tax claims, it may be diluted if the incomes of both spouses are taken together. The reason being that, IRS requires the miscellaneous expenses to exceed more than 2% of the AGI, which may not be realistic in case of joint incomes.

-When the spouses tax claims cannot be verified

By attesting to a joint income tax file, each spouse would be liable to pay the taxed amounts whatever their individual income is. Apart from being liable to pay, each spouse would be liable for the others unpaid taxes and penalties as well. It is well known that, spouses who are self-employed and is aggressive in their business strategies would undertake creative accounting in order to evade tax liabilities. At the same time, one spouse may not be aware about the others fraudulent acts in relation to tax disclosures. However, if there is any chance of such risks, it is best to file separately even if you are married.

-When one spouse owes unpaid child support

According to IRS regulations, if such unpaid child support or unpaid student loans were present, it would deduct them from the tax refunds due to such persons. Therefore, in such instances, filing jointly may harm the non-liable spouses’ deductions unnecessarily.


Internal Revenue Service