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Married couples who agree to combine their tax returns and file their federal income taxes jointly can reap benefits from that filing status. While it is a good idea to figure your taxes jointly and compare by figuring a separate tax filing, in most cases, there will be more benefits in filing jointly.
- The most obvious way filing jointly benefits a couple at tax time is the easier process of filing a single return instead of two separate returns. Joint filings eliminate the need to schedule two appointments with a tax preparer or go through an online tax program twice. A joint filing usually doesn't cost more than a single filing.
- The total tax liability for a couple is likely to be less when they file a joint return. The income threshold for a single filer jumps from the minimum to a much higher tax bracket once the person earns more than $33,950 (for 2009), but a couple will retain the lowest tax bracket as long as their combined income remains below $67,900 (2009).
In the event that one person in the marriage makes $40,000 per year, for example, and the other is a stay-at-home parent or makes less than $27,900, the spouse with the higher income would remain in the lowest tax-liability range instead of being in a considerably higher bracket.
- A standard deduction is a common deduction made on everyone's tax return that reduces the amount of tax owed by those who do not itemize deductions for the prior year. Filing jointly can lead to a lower taxable income because the standard deduction doubles for joint filers.
In 2009 the IRS allows a standard deduction of $5,700 against owed taxes for married people filing separately and an $11,400 standard deduction for those filing jointly. In some cases, this deduction could make the difference in bringing the adjusted gross income to a lower tax bracket, resulting in a larger refund or a reduced tax bill.
- Some tax credits are generally available only to married couples who file jointly, including the earned income credit, dependent care credit, adoption credit and a student loan interest deduction. These credits can reduce tax liability and have a significant impact on the amount of taxes owed or a refund.