What Are the Tax Benefits of Being Married?

by Jack Ori

Married couples in the United States qualify for federal tax benefits such as lowered tax rates and higher amounts of pre-tax dollars for some transactions, such as selling their homes. As of December 2010, only opposite-sex partners may marry and claim tax benefits related to marriage. Couples must marry by December 31 to take advantage of benefits.

Unequal Income Bonus

If you and your spouse have unequal incomes (i.e., one spouse makes far more than the other), you can save money on your taxes by filing jointly. When you file a joint return, the Internal Revenue Service taxes the total amount of income that you and your spouse make. Thus, you as a couple get taxed less than if each of you paid taxes separately. If your incomes are equal, however, your joint income may be high enough to push you into a higher tax bracket, thus causing you to pay higher taxes than you would if you filed separately.

Tax Withholding

You and your spouse are entitled to extra withholding allowances once you are married. Redo your W4 Withholding Allowance Worksheet to determine how many extra allowances you are allowed. For example, if your new spouse has children, you may be entitled to additional withholding for child care expenses. You and your spouse may divide the extra withholdings however you want, according to Turbotax; whichever taxpayer will get the most benefits should claim a particular withholding allowance.

Home Sales

Some married couples can keep more of their profits from selling their home than single taxpayers. As of 2010, a single taxpayer does not have to pay taxes on the first $250,000 of profits from selling his home if he owned the home for at least two years. If both spouses qualify for this tax benefit and sell their homes so they can move into a new home together, they can both keep the first $250,000 of their respective sales. If the spouses then sell their new home after two years, they can keep the first $500,000 of the joint sale.

Qualifying for Benefits

You must be married as of December 31 to file a joint tax return. Couples who wait until after the first of the year must not file joint returns until the following year. Couples who are in the process of divorcing but are not legally divorced as of December 31 may still file joint tax returns if they wish. Consult a tax professional if you are unsure whether you qualify for a particular benefit.

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