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Filing Taxes As Married or Single?

Filing Taxes As Married or Single?

If you’re a newlywed, you may be wondering whether it’s best to file taxes as single or married. But except for a few special cases. The decision is easy: if you’re married on the last day of the tax year, you file as married. You can choose between married filing separately or married filing jointly, but filing as single is no longer an option. In many circumstances, deciding between married filing separately and married filing jointly is just a matter of calculating things both ways and choosing the one that gives you the greatest tax benefits. The IRS has a very clear page on their website about filing status that goes into detail for each type, including head of household.

Remember that how you file has no relationship to what you put on your withholding form where you work. Also, your employer company won’t automatically change your information just because they know you’ve gotten married; you need to fill out a new form. (You should make sure that it correctly reflects your actual status; either single, married, or married but withhold at a higher single rate, but if you haven’t changed it yet don’t panic, just get it done.) The IRS withholding calculator might be helpful with that.

View Comments (30)
  • Yeah, I have been married for 2 years and tried both ways both years. My experience is that it’s better to file married — at least in my case.

  • I file single and Im married.. not sure why .. but our tax consultant says it’s the
    most beneficial way for us. does anyone know why?

  • Your tax consultant is right. Regarding how much you owe the govt, filing single is the most beneficial way. (ever hear people refer to the marriage penalty)

    Unfortunately, your tax consultant is also advising you to do something that is illegal (I hope you’re not paying him/her). You should pray that you don’t get audited IRS. See the filing status linked above in the main article for details.

  • Without my knowledge, my immigrant wife filed “married filing single”. (We live in the same house). I had to file the same way. By doing so, I lost my “head of household” status and college tuition credits for both children. Instead of receiving a rebate check like last year, I just paid over $3,100 to the government. Go figure!!

  • I have been separated for about four years ( not leagally). Can i file as SINGLE?

  • Wish — You probably have to file as married filing separately, although you might be able to file as head of household if you have a child living with you. Call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to verify.

  • This was a dilemma for us, as we were married in November. Figured out if we each filed as single, we’d each be getting $1800 back in a refund. But, filing as married (joint was the best turnout) we owe $3500. All for two months of marriage…!

  • Becca: we just figured our taxes the same way. filing single, we receive a large refund each, filing jointly, we owe…whats up with this? we dont know what to do. what did you do?

  • Becca & Kat, if you are married you cannot file single. You have to file either married filing jointly or married filing separately.

  • Linda, it sounds like you are talking about having taxes withheld from your paychecks, not filing taxes. Talk with your tax guy more about it and use the IRS withholding calculator (linked above) to get a better idea of how much to have withheld. Sometimes you also need to have an additional amount withheld from each check. To answer your question, on the withholding, you still have to put married if you are married, but you can choose “married but withhold at higher single rate”. Claiming fewer allowances will help have more tax withheld too. I highly recommend using the IRS calculator.

  • My husband and I owe each year since we’ve been married (I guess cuz of our combined salaries). He has been filing as Married with 2 allowances (his 2 kids). I’m filing under Single, 1. Our tax guy just told us we should each file as Married 0. Will changing both of our withholdings to Married, 0 help us? Obvioulsy, we are not having enough taxes withheld the way we have been doing it. Even if we break even I’d be happy. I’m tired of paying back Federal Taxes each year.

  • Should we both choose ‘married but withhold at higher single rate’? Maybe that will help withhold more taxes? I thought that ‘choice’ really doesn’t make a difference with how much taxes they take out. ??

    I am already having an extra $50 a week being withheld for Federal.

  • Linda, in theory that should hold out more taxes. I’d recommend checking with the calculator and/or a tax person though.

  • Does this calculate the amount of withholding for both Federal and State taxes?

    For the portion where the calculator asks us to enter federal income tax held, do we include social security and medicare taxes or just federal withholding?


  • Sangeetha, it just does Federal. Your state may have information on calculating their withholding. I don’t believe social security and medicare are entered, but check with the IRS to be certain.

  • I have a question…I wanted to know since i didn’t file taxes for 2006 and 2007, when I go to file, I am filing single because my husband did for 2006 and 2007. Should I be ok?

  • Lana, that doesn’t sound right to me. Check with a tax person or the IRS (1-800-829-1040) to find out.

  • Kid, if you’re married, you need to file as married. If it turns out you haven’t really been married all this time, I’d think you would need to go back and amend your returns for the years you filed as married to file as single. I bet you are really married though, but if you’re not there are probably other problems…

  • I’ve got a funny one…I got married in Jamaica in 2006. I’ve filed as married every since & always got back $$. This year they say I owe $1,500.00 (filing jointly), but we’d get back over $2K if filing single.
    Well, one thing I alway meant to take care of was taking my marriage certificate to my state office so they could recognize it. So basically, I got married out of the US, never notified the US that I was married, never changed my wifes name on her SS card, but I’ve filed married every since. So, can I now file single since the US doesn’t really recognize me as married?

  • I’ve got a nice twist like Kid Dynamite. Married outside the U.S. in 2007. Claimed married, 1 for 2008 and got a decent refund. Now for 2009, I owe. My tax guy says I should switch back to single, as my wife is still not in the U.S., with no s.s.# and therefore no way for me to claim. Does that make sense?


  • scautomag, if it were me I would check with the IRS. I’d be very surprised if there wasn’t a way to claim your wife even without a social security number.

  • our tax consultant advise us that being living together as coupels for certain time we could file as jointly married and we have being oing our taxes for years will this effec us in the future

  • I’ve been married for one year and a half but my father still claims me as a dependent since I’m 22yrs old and he pays for my college tuition. My husband filed married but filing separately, and I’m not a dependent on his. Is this something wrong? thanks, any help would be great!

  • I’m an American married to a foreignor with an H1-B visa, not a green card. I’ve heard that we should file separately. Is this true?

  • Ellen, I have no idea. Usually people do a trial return filing both ways to see how it comes out better for them, but in the situation you describe I have no idea what other factors might come into play. Your tax person or the IRS should be able to help you though.

  • I am about to get my married. My partner is in prison and has been this whole year. He has not been employed during 2009. I have gotten a refund every year (I also have a child). Will I still get a refund if I file as married or should I wait to get married til he is out and working? Will I still get a refund if I am married and he isn’t working?

  • Cheryl, I have no way of knowing whether or not you might get a refund. You could probably run a mock tax return both ways to see whether it might be more or less advantageous tax-wise to get married now or later.

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