true
  • Meet Claudell, one of our tax experts.
    TurboTax Live Assisted Basic
    File 100% FREE with expert help: Get live help from tax experts, plus a final review before you file — all free.
    Simple tax returns only.
    See if you qualify. Must file by 3/31.
Top
  1. TurboTax /
  2. Tax Calculators & Tips /
  3. Tax Tips Guides & Videos /
  4. Marriage /
  5. Should You and Your Spouse File Taxes Jointly or Separately?

Should You and Your Spouse File Taxes Jointly or Separately?

Updated for Tax Year 2022 • December 1, 2022 09:00 AM


OVERVIEW

Married couples have the option to file jointly or separately on their federal income tax returns. The IRS strongly encourages most couples to file joint tax returns by extending several tax breaks to those who file together. In the vast majority of cases, it's best for married couples to file jointly, but there may be a few instances when it's better to submit separate returns.


For information on the third coronavirus relief package, please visit our “American Rescue Plan: What Does it Mean for You and a Third Stimulus Check” blog post.


 

file taxes jointly or separately


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | iHeartRadio

 

Key Takeaways

• For tax year 2022, most married couples under 65 filing a joint return receive a standard deduction of $25,900, while couples filing separately receive a standard deduction of $12,950.

• Joint filers usually receive higher income thresholds for certain tax breaks, such as the deduction for contributing to an IRA.

• If you’re married and file separately, you may face a higher tax rate and pay more tax.

• Filing separately may be a benefit if you have a large amount of out-of-pocket medical expenses. It may be easier to reach the 7.5% threshold of your adjusted gross income to qualify for medical deductions if you only claim one income.

Advantages of filing jointly

There are many advantages to filing a joint tax return with your spouse. Joint filers receive one of the largest standard deductions each year, allowing them to deduct a significant amount of income when calculating taxable income.

Couples who file together can usually qualify for multiple tax credits such as the:

Joint filers mostly receive higher income thresholds for certain taxes and deductions—this means they can often earn a larger amount of income and still potentially qualify for certain tax breaks.

Consequences of filing your tax returns separately

On the other hand, couples who file separately typically receive fewer tax benefits. Separate tax returns may result in more tax.

  • In 2022, married filing separately taxpayers only receive a standard deduction of $12,950 compared to the $25,900 offered to those who filed jointly.
  • If you file a separate return from your spouse, you are often automatically disqualified from several of the tax deductions and credits mentioned earlier.
  • In addition, separate filers are usually limited to a smaller IRA contribution deduction.
  • They also cannot take the deduction for student loan interest.
  • The capital loss deduction limit is $1,500 each when filing separately, instead of $3,000 on a joint return.

 

TurboTax Tip: The best way to find out if you should file jointly or separately with your spouse is to prepare the tax return both ways. Double check your calculations and then look at the net refund or balance due from each method.


 

When you might file separately

In rare situations, filing separately may help you save on your tax return.

  • For example, if you or your spouse has a large amount of out-of-pocket medical expenses to claim and since the IRS only allows you to deduct the amount of these costs that exceeds 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) in 2022, it can be difficult to claim most of your expenses if you and your spouse have a high AGI.
    • For example, if you have $10,000 in medical expenses and made $50,000. That would meet the 7.5% threshold ($10,000 ÷ $50,000 = 20% of your income).
    • Whereas, if together you make $135,000, this would disqualify you from claiming these medical expenses ($10,000 ÷ $135,000 = 7.4% of your income).
  • Filing separate returns in such a situation may be beneficial if it allows you to claim more of your available medical deductions by applying the threshold to only one of your incomes.
  • When filing separately, both spouses must take the standard deduction or both must itemize their deductions. One spouse cannot itemize their deductions while the other spouse takes the standard deduction.
  • When itemizing deductions, each deduction can only be used by one spouse even if both spouses paid for the expense. A deduction can be split between spouses filing separately as long as the total claimed by both spouses does not exceed the total deduction.

For more tips on when you might want to file separately, be sure to check out our article When Married Filing Separately Will Save You Taxes.

Deciding which status to use

The best way to find out if you should file jointly or separately with your spouse is to prepare the tax return both ways. Double check your calculations and then look at the net refund or balance due from each method. If you use TurboTax to prepare your return, we’ll do the calculation for you, and recommend the filing status that gives you the biggest tax savings.

Let an expert do your taxes for you, start to finish with TurboTax Live Full Service. Or you can get your taxes done right, with experts by your side with TurboTax Live Assisted. File your own taxes with confidence using TurboTax. Just answer simple questions, and we’ll guide you through filing your taxes with confidence. Whichever way you choose, get your maximum refund guaranteed.

File 100% FREE with expert help

Get live help from tax experts plus a final review with Live Assisted Basic.

For simple tax returns only.
See if you qualify.
Must file by 3/31.

$89$0*
State included

Get your max refund

Answer simple questions about your life and TurboTax Free Edition will take care of the rest.

For simple tax returns only
See if you qualify

Looking for more information?