How to File Your Taxes as Newlyweds

You’ve just gotten married. Life is wonderful. Perhaps your honeymoon involved climbing glaciers in Iceland or maybe you went island hopping in the Philippines, and now you’re just settling into life as newlyweds. Things start to simmer, you find your rhythm, and you’ve accomplished what many people consider to be the ultimate success; creating a family.

Now that your first year together is ending, the tax season is upon you. You’ve heard that people sometimes get married simply for ‘tax purposes’ and you’re wondering exactly what those are, or what the process is like when you’re just married. Wonder no more, lovebirds—we’ll answer those questions below.

How to file your taxes as newlyweds

Your Filing Status is Important

The rule of thumb here is that you’re always going to be better off if you file together. In the tax world, this is commonly referred to as ‘joint filing.’ It often reduces the amount of taxes owed and streamlines the process, effectively making taxes easier to pay (both logistically and monetarily). If you want to keep your finances independent of one other, you might not want to file jointly. However, couples typically work together to manage their finances.

The Logistics

There’s going to be quite a few things that you’re going to need to do when filing as newlyweds. Worry not, as most of these action points will only need to be completed once. Some things to consider:

  • If you’ve changed your name, you need to report it to the SSA. This is done by filing Form SS-5
  • If your address has changed, you’re going to have to update this on the IRS side (Form 8822)
  • Report the name and address (if changed) to your employer
  • If you’re both employed, your combined incomes may shift you into a higher tax bracket, effectively changing how much federal income tax is withheld
  • The latest date in which you are married in a given year, to claim that year as newlyweds, is Dec 31st. This means that, although the IRS uses the fiscal year, if you’re married in the months of the New Year, you won’t be filing together for the previous year.
  • From an injured spouse claim to an adoption credit, the list of deductions possible as a married couple rolls on and on. Be sure to do the appropriate research to claim deductions that you weren’t eligible for when you were single.

File A New Form W-4

Understanding where you are as a married couple—in your finances—is paramount when filing joint taxes. There’s a large possibility that you’re going to have to change how much tax is withheld with your employer. You don’t want to withhold too little or too much; too little and you’re in for a rude awakening come tax season, too much and you’re not receiving the full income you should be. Things change when your finances merge and, being that you most likely began this job as a single filer, your employment contract and withholdings are tailored towards your original status, rather than your newfound joint status.

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Establish A Filling/Document Organization System

There has been a paradigm shift in the way you pay taxes; you went from one to two. Yes, that means twice the paperwork, although only one return will be filed. Thus, it’s important that all your W-2s, 1099s, charitable deductions, medical bills, child care bills, and the likes are properly organized and accounted for when filing. When it comes to how to file your taxes as newlyweds, you’re going to want to use your first tax return process as a template for the ones to follow.

This system is what’s going to help you manage your finances, keep everything in order, and then allot you the room to focus on other things, like where you’re going to invest that sweet tax return coming your way.

There are many benefits to filing taxes jointly. If you’re wondering how to do it, we encourage that you, at least on this initial round, hire a tax professional. You want the first round to be perfect—but more importantly, you want it to be an educational experience so you’re maximizing your deductions, withholding the correct amount from your income, and taking preventative measures not to end up in trouble with the IRS.

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