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Should We File Married Filing Joint (MFJ) 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 (MFS) returns. For example, you BOTH must itemize or claim the standard deduction, you do not get the $25,000 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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We do not offer legal advice. All information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. If you have legal questions, we recommend that you seek the advice of legal professionals.

Tax Disclaimer: To ensure compliance with IRS Rules, any U.S. federal tax advice provided in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by the recipient or any other taxpayer (i) for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed on the recipient or any other taxpayer under the Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) in promoting, marketing or recommending to another party a partnership or other entity, investment plan, arrangement or other transaction addressed herein.

Copyright 2017 Wink Tax Services / Wink Inc.
Last modified: January 30, 2017