When two people get married, they likely do so knowing about the many ways in which their lives will be different from now on. But one thing many may not consider when getting married, unless they're doing it during the run-up to tax season, is the ways in which this can significantly change their tax filing status overall. Therefore, they might want to do a little bit more to prepare for changes that will impact their bottom lines once it comes time to pay the Internal Revenue Service.
The first thing to consider about the way getting married will affect a person's tax liabilities is their filing status itself. As long as people get married before the end of the tax year - meaning, before or on Dec. 31 - they will be able to file as married, either jointly or separately. Of course, each person's situation is different, but in general it's wise for couples who are both working throughout the year to file jointly. This is especially true if one makes significantly more than the other, because it will potentially serve to reduce their tax bracket overall, and lead them to pay far less than they would have otherwise.
Further, this decision will likely put them in a better position when it comes to making certain types of deductions, such as those for charitable donations, or when they sell their home. Typically, the benefits can be significantly increased in this regard. For example, when a married couple sells their home, the tax benefit is double what they would have received if they remained unmarried and sold the house they shared anyway.
Are there any drawbacks?
So far, all this makes filing jointly sound like a great idea, but there may be issues that arise for married couples that could actually serve as something of a penalty for their status. For instance, if both spouses make a lot of money, their combined salaries could push them into higher tax brackets than they might have been in individually, meaning that they'd end up paying more every year unless something changed.
For that reason, people who have gotten married in the previous calendar year and are now turning their attentions toward getting their tax filing ready might do well to take their situations to a professional tax preparer. This will help them figure out the best strategy for dealing with the IRS, and help them spot any issues before they arise.