Getting married doesn't automatically save you money on your taxes. It depends on your earnings and other factors involved. The tax breaks involved with tying the knot are highly individualized, but according to MSN Money, approximately half of all married couples will pay less in taxes than they did when they were single.
If you choose to take itemized deductions rather than a standard deduction, this might result in tax savings if your new spouse brings more available deductions into the marriage than you had on your own. For example, she might own a home and you don’t. By filing a joint married return, you can take advantage of write-offs for her mortgage interest and real estate taxes. If you earn $50,000 per year and took the standard deduction for a single person before you were married, you would have paid taxes on $44,200 of your income. The single standard deduction was $5,800 in 2011. If your spouse also earns $50,000 per year, and if she has $14,000 in available itemized deductions, the two of you would pay taxes on $86,000, or $100,000 of joint income less the $14,000 in deductions. If you divide that by half, your own taxable income would drop from $44,200 to $43,000. However, your spouse would actually be penalized. If she had filed single, she would only have paid taxes on $36,000 of her income, or $50,000 minus her $14,000 in itemized deductions.
If your new spouse has a child, you can write off an additional $3,700 from your taxes for that child as of 2011. You would lower your personal income that you must pay taxes on by an additional $1,850 because you now share that $3,700 deduction with your spouse. It doesn’t matter that her child is your stepchild and not your natural-born child. When you file married jointly, the dependent deduction applies to your combined incomes.
Your Tax Bracket
If you and your spouse both earn a similar income, filing a joint married return probably won’t affect your tax bracket much. However, if one of you earns significantly more than the other, the lower income of one spouse can “pull down” the higher income of the other, resulting in a lower tax bracket for the higher earner. For example, if you earn $90,000 per year and your spouse earns $25,000 a year, your joint income would be $115,000. If you’re married and you file jointly, this puts you in a 25 percent tax bracket. If you weren’t married, and if you filed single and earned $90,000, you’d be in a 28 percent tax bracket.
If you realize at tax time that your tax liability actually increased because you got married, there’s not much you can do about it. Once you get married, the Internal Revenue Service no longer allows you to file a single return. You could file married and separately, but that would probably increase your tax liability even more. However, if your spouse doesn’t work or earn income, you might be able to file as head of household instead, which would offer you several tax advantages you could not have claimed when filing single.
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images