When it comes to your taxes, marriage changes everything. From choosing the correct filing status to determining what is and is not taxable, tax time can bring some unwanted stress if you've been recently married or divorced.

To help, here are some tips:

  • Choose the right filing status. Your filing status determines most of the amounts on your tax return, including tax bracket, exemptions and eligibility for credits and deductions.

    Your choice of status ultimately depends on whether you are married or unmarried on the last day of the tax year—generally, December 31. If you are still in the process of going through a divorce, then you are still considered married. The IRS only considers you unmarried if you have a final decree of divorce or separate maintenance at the end of the year.

    Unmarried persons generally use the single filing status. However, you can file as head of household if a qualified dependent lives with you.

    Married persons can file either jointly or separately. When filing jointly, the income and deductions of both spouses are combined on one return. Filing a joint return means both of you are liable for any tax liability, even if only one of you earned the income.

    While filing separate returns relieves you from liability of your spouse's tax, your tax rate is generally higher and you won't be allowed to claim certain credits, including the Earned Income Credit and education credits.

  • Not all costs of marriage or divorce are deductible. You cannot deduct the costs of getting married or divorced. You can, however, deduct any legal fees you paid for tax advice related to divorce and any legal fees you paid to receive alimony.
  • Know the rules about alimony and child support. Alimony is payment written into the divorce papers for the purpose of supporting the recipient spouse. Child support, on the other hand, is a payment from the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent, intended to give the child a lifestyle similar to what it was before the divorce.

    Alimony you receive is taxable income and must be included as income on your tax return. Remember to give your Social Security number to your former spouse to avoid a $50 penalty.

    Alimony you pay is deductible, even if you don't itemize deductions. You must include your former spouse's Social Security number on your tax return in order to claim the deduction.

  • Save time and money now and next year. If your name has changed, remember the names on your tax return must match the names the Social Security Administration has on file. If the information does not match, the IRS will likely reject your return.

    Just because your marriage status changes doesn't mean you can't do your own taxes. Affordable, and even free, Web products and mobile apps will guide you. Solutions such as TaxAct provide explanations and tips in Life Events, and check your return for errors and missed savings.

    It pays to think ahead. Review and adjust your withholding via Form W-4 to prevent a large tax bill next year.

Learn more at www.irs.gov and www.TaxAct.com/taxinfo. Try TaxAct risk-free at www.TaxAct.com.

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Upcoming Tax Dates

April 10 — Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during March, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

April 15 — Individuals *2017 Filing Deadline: 04-17, 2018*
File a 2017 income tax return (Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ) and pay any tax due. If you want an automatic 6 month extension of time to file the return, file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. For more information, see Form 4868. Then, file Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ by 10-15.

April 15 — Corporations *2017 Filing Deadline: 04-17, 2018*
File a 2017 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120) and pay any tax due. Details

April 15 — Individuals
If you are not paying your 2018 income tax through withholding (or will not pay in enough tax during the year that way), pay the first installment of your 2018 estimated tax. Use Form 1040ES.

April 15 — Household Employers
If you paid cash wages of $2,000 or more in 2017 to a household employee, you must file Schedule H Details

April 15 — Corporations
Deposit the first installment of estimated income tax for 2017 Details

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

April 15 — Household employers
If you paid cash wages of $$2,000 or more in 2017 to a household employee, you must file Schedule H (Form 1040). If you are required to file a federal income tax return (Form 1040), file Schedule H (Form 1040) with the return and report any household employment taxes. Report any federal unemployment (FUTA) tax on Schedule H (Form 1040) if you paid total cash wages of $1,000 or more in any calendar quarter of 2016 or 2017 to household employees. Also, report any income tax you withheld for your household employees.

April 30 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the first quarter of 2018. 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 05-10 to file the return.

April 30 — Federal unemployment tax.
Deposit the tax owed through 03-if more than $500.

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