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  5. Video: Should a Married Couple File Jointly or Separately?

Video: Should a Married Couple File Jointly or Separately?

Updated for Tax Year 2021 • October 17, 2021 10:40 AM


If you are married and deciding whether it's beneficial to file a joint tax return with your spouse, there are certainly issues you should consider first. Watch this video to learn more about how you should file as a married couple.


Video transcript:

Hi, I'm Arye from TurboTax with some helpful tax tips about a married couple filing jointly or separately. There are a lot of wonderful things about being married, and believe it or not, your taxes can be one of them. But should you and your spouse file separately or jointly? In most cases filing jointly will save you the most money, but you should still consider your decision carefully.

When you file jointly you report a single taxable income that combines your earnings with your spouse's. Taxes are calculated using a different set of tax brackets than when you file separately. The primary advantage of filing jointly is that each tax bracket covers a higher range of taxable income than filing separately.

  • Essentially this means that often more of your income can be taxed at lower rates, resulting in a lower tax bill than you’d get by filing separately.
  • And the larger the difference in income between spouses, the more tax you might be able to save by filing jointly.

The primary drawback to filing jointly is that you and your spouse are separately responsible for all taxes - not just the tax related to your own earnings.

  • For example, suppose you earned $50,000 last year and your spouse earned $100,000.
  • Although you only earned a third of the income, you would be responsible for taxes on the entire $150,000 if your spouse owes taxes or is unable to pay.

Under very limited circumstances the IRS can grant various types of relief that either eliminates the joint liability or reduces the amount of tax you are responsible for.

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