Marriage and Filing Status

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Few events in life have greater tax consequences than changing your marital status. If you file jointly, you're affected by your spouse's income, deductions, and other tax items. If you file separately, you generally cannot take tax credits, such as the child and dependent care credit, and you can't claim the standard deduction unless your spouse does the same. If you live in a community property state, you may have to claim some of your spouse's income and deductions, even when you file separately.

Marriage Tax or Marriage Penalty

You may have heard of the "marriage tax" or the "marriage penalty." There is no specific tax for married people. The so-called marriage penalty is the higher total tax some taxpayers may pay due to provisions in the tax code.

For example, you can use $3,000 of capital losses to offset ordinary income, such as wages, every year. A single person can deduct up to $3,000 against ordinary income and a married couple together can only deduct up to $3,000 against ordinary income. If the married couple files separately, they can each only deduct $1,500 of capital loss against ordinary income.

Most limits and phase-out ranges are higher for a married couple than for a single person, but they may be less than two times the amounts for a single person. The child tax credit is one example - the credit begins to be phased out for a single person with an income of $75,000 (for 2016). For a married couple, the credit starts to phase out at $110,000 - considerably less than twice the level for single taxpayers.

Married and Living with Spouse

If you are married and living with your spouse, you must file as married filing jointly or married filing separately. You cannot choose to file as single or head of household. However, if you were separated from your spouse on December 31, 2016 by a separate maintenance decree, you may choose to file as single.

You may be able to file as a head of household instead of as married if you meet certain qualifications to be considered unmarried. You must be a U.S. citizen or resident the entire year, not file with your spouse, pay more than half the cost of keeping up your home during the year, and have your child in your home for more than half of the year. The child must be your dependent, or a child who would have been your dependent except that you released the dependency to the other parent. In addition, your spouse must not have lived in the home during the last six months of the year.

Newlyweds and Income Tax Withholding

When you get married, it's a good time to check your income tax withholding and make sure you're not having too much - or too little - withheld from your paycheck. It is important to file a new Form W-4, with the Married checkbox selected, with your employer after your marriage. When you do, it may be equally important to adjust the amount of withholding on the Form W-4. For example, if you and your spouse make similar incomes, you may need to have more income tax withheld to avoid a potential tax bill next year.

On the other hand, if your spouse has little or no income, your income tax bill when you file jointly may be considerably less. You may need to have less income tax withheld to avoid having the IRS hold too much of your money all year.

Many factors affect how much tax you owe when you file your return

The smart way to fill out your Form W-4 is to estimate your tax liability as closely as possible for the current year, and then have an amount as close to your liability as possible withheld throughout the year. If something changes during the year; for example, if you quit a job or buy a house, you can estimate your tax liability again and make any necessary adjustments.

You can easily adjust your income tax withholding by going through TaxAct's W-4 Withholding topic.


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Upcoming Tax Dates

February 1 — Individuals who must make estimated tax payments
If you did not pay your last installment of estimated tax by January 15, you may choose (but are not required) to file your income tax return (Form 1040) for 2016 by February 1. Filing your return and paying any tax due by February 2 prevents any penalty for late payment of the last installment. If you cannot file and pay your tax by February 1, file and pay your tax by April 18.

February 1 — Payers of gambling winnings
If you either paid reportable gambling winnings or withheld income tax from gambling winnings, give the winners their copies of Form W2G.

February 1 — Nonpayroll taxes
File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2016 on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on pensions, annuities, IRAs, gambling winnings, and payments of Indian gaming profits to tribal members. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules.

February 1 — Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2016. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 1 — Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2016. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2016 but less than $2,500 for the fourth quarter, deposit any undeposited tax or pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 1 — Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2016. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 1 — Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2016. If your undeposited tax is $500 or less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it is more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 1 — All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2016 - Details

February 1 — Form 720 taxes
File Form 720 for the fourth quarter of 2016.

February 1 — Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during December 2016.

February 10 — Nonpayroll taxes
File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2016 on all nonpayroll items. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2016. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2016. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2016. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2016. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during January, report them to your employer - Details

February 10 — Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the first 15 days of January.

February 12 — Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the last 16 days of January.

February 15 — All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2016 - Details

February 15 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

February 15 — Nonpayroll withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

February 15 — All employers
Begin withholding income tax from the pay of any employee who claimed exemption from withholding in 2016, but did not give you Form W4 to continue the exemption this year.

February 16 — Individuals
If you claimed exemption from income tax withholding last year on the Form W-4, you must file a new Form W-4 by this date to continue your exemption for another year - Details

February 20 — Everyone
Federal Holiday (Washington's Birthday) - Details

February 25 — Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 16 days of January.

February 28 — Regular method taxes.
Deposit the tax for the first 15 days of February.

February 28 — All businesses
File information returns (for example, Forms 1099) for certain payments you made during 2016.

February 28 — Payers of gambling winnings.
File Form 1096 along with Copy A of all the Forms W2G you issued for 2016. If you file Forms W2G electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains February 1.

February 28 — All employers
File Form W3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, along with Copy A of all the Forms W2 you issued for 2016. If you file Forms W2 electronically, your due date for filing them with the SSA will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains February 1.

February 28 — Large food and beverage establishment employers
File Form 8027, Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips. Use Form 8027T, Transmittal of Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips, to summarize and transmit Forms 8027 if you have more than one establishment. If you file Forms 8027 electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31.

February 28 — Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during January.

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