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Being Married and Filing Taxes Jointly

Updated: Mar 31, 2022

The Pros and Cons of Filing a Joint Married Return

The Internal Revenue Service doesn't force married couples to file joint income tax returns simply because they've tied the knot. They have the option of filing separate married returns, but ​filing jointly usually provides more in the way of tax relief.

According to the IRS, "If you and your spouse decide to file a joint return, your tax may be lower than your combined tax for the other filing statuses.

Also, your standard deduction (if you do not itemize deductions) may be higher, and you may qualify for tax benefits that do not apply to other filing statuses."

If you're unsure what's best for your personal situation, experts recommend preparing your taxes both ways to determine which option makes the most financial sense for you. You might also want to keep a few rules in mind. 

​When Can You File a Joint Return With Your Spouse?

You're eligible to file a joint tax return if you're considered legally married. This means that you were married on the last day of the tax year.​ Even if you filed for divorce during the year, the IRS still considers you married if you don't receive a divorce decree or judgment on or before December 31.

That's the basic rule. You can't be legally separated by court order, either, although it's not mandatory that you live together. You can simply live apart without having the court issue an order dictating the terms of your separation.

Both you and your spouse must also ag