Should We File Married Joint or Separate?

There is really no way to be able to answer that question for sure, other than by actually preparing both "sets" of returns, and see which ones come out better.

In general, those who MIGHT benefit from filing separately are couples who:

  1. Both work outside of the home,
  2. Have sizable medical deductions that apply to only one of them,
  3. Have income from separate investments or property,
  4. Do NOT live in a community property state (or do, but most of their holdings are separate property under state law), OR
  5. You are separated or contemplating a separation, and have doubts about the wisdom of being individually liable for your joint tax liability.
(Hint: If even only one of the above applies to you, you might consider trying to file separately, and see if it would come out to less than filing jointly).

Note: There are significant restrictions that apply to Married Filing Separately returns. For example, you BOTH must itemize or claim the standard deduction, you do not get the exemption from passive treatment for active-participation rental real estate losses, and half of ALL of your Social Security benefits are taxed. Be sure you read the instructions carefully for guidance with these and other restrictions.

If you live in a community property state, state law may dictate how you need to report your earned income, as well as certain other income and deductions. Local professional guidance is suggested.

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