Married Filing Separately

DEFINITION of 'Married Filing Separately'

A filing status for married couples who choose to record their respective incomes, exemptions and deductions on separate tax returns. In most cases, married filing jointly offers the most tax savings, especially when the spouses have different income levels. However, there is a potential tax advantage to filing separately when one spouse has significant medical expenses or miscellaneous itemized deductions.

BREAKING DOWN 'Married Filing Separately'

According to the IRS, if you and your spouse file separate returns and one of you itemizes deductions, the other spouse will have a standard deduction of zero. Therefore, the other spouse should also itemize deductions. Some credits cannot be used at all if you file separately; these include the child and dependent care credit, hope and lifetime learning credits, and adoption expense credit. If you live in community property states including Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington or Wisconsin, you may need to see a tax professional because the rules about separate incomes can be tricky.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Joint Return

    A U.S. income tax return filed on behalf of a married couple, ...
  2. Separate Return

    A separate Form 1040, or a variant thereof, filed by a married ...
  3. IRS Publication 555

    A document published by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that ...
  4. IRS Publication 501

    A document published by the Internal Revenue Service that covers ...
  5. Form 8857: Request For Innocent ...

    An IRS tax form used by taxpayers to request relief from a tax ...
  6. Single Filer

    The filing status used by a taxpayer who is unmarried and does ...
Related Articles
  1. Taxes

    Should Married Taxpayers File Together?

    The earned income credit is one tax incentive married couples filing a joint tax return can take advantage of. Is it a good idea?
  2. Taxes

    When An Innocent Spouse Seeks Tax Relief

    The IRS sets a high bar for spouses angling to divorce themselves from their partners' back tax bills.
  3. Retirement

    Top Tax Tips For Retirees

    Filing your taxes during retirement can be just as time consuming as when you were employed. We have some tips to help you out.
  4. Taxes

    5 Rules To Follow If You Are Filing Taxes Yourself In 2013

    It is important to make sure that you cover all the bases when you decide to file without the financial expertise of a tax professional.
  5. Taxes

    How To Get The Most Money Back On Your Tax Return

    These tips will help you get a larger refund this year, while teaching you how to pay less taxes going forward.
  6. Taxes

    20 Tax Changes You Need To Know About

    Don't miss out on the tax changes. Here's a list that you need to know about.
  7. Personal Finance

    Learn About These 6 Dumb Money Pitfalls For Married Couples

    From tax implications to knowing your partner's credit score, watch out for these six money pitfalls.
  8. Taxes

    Do Your Research Before Claiming These Deductions

    Be sure to read the fine print about any deduction or credit that you’re planning to claim.
  9. Taxes

    Why You Should Itemize Your Tax Deductions

    This strategy of moving your tax deductable payments and donations to the following year could mean hundreds more on your return.
  10. Taxes

    An Overview Of Itemized Deductions

    Not taking the standard deduction this year could save you hundreds of dollars.
RELATED FAQS
  1. Can I file single if I am legally married but have not lived with spouse for two ...

  2. Am I eligible to file a federal tax return receiving social security disability & ...

  3. Who qualifies as "single" for tax or retirement purposes when spouses do not live ...

    For the purposes of taking a deduction for an IRA contribution, the IRS provides special allowances for individuals who are ... Read Answer >>
  4. Do we have to file taxes?

    Our only income is social security and a very small pension amount. We were told by our accountant that we did not need to ... Read Answer >>
  5. Which is better for tax deductions, itemization or a standard deduction?

    Each deduction that you claim may result in a decrease in the amount of taxes that you owe. However, whether you receive ... Read Answer >>
  6. We are in a 401(k) at work. Can we also do a Roth each year? If we can, can it also ...

    Participation in a 401(k) or any other employer plan does not affect your ability to establish and/or fund (or participate ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. MACD Technical Indicator

    Moving Average Convergence Divergence (or MACD) is a trend-following momentum indicator that shows the relationship between ...
  2. Over-The-Counter - OTC

    Over-The-Counter (or OTC) is a security traded in some context other than on a formal exchange such as the NYSE, TSX, AMEX, ...
  3. Quarter - Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4

    A three-month period on a financial calendar that acts as a basis for the reporting of earnings and the paying of dividends.
  4. Weighted Average Cost Of Capital - WACC

    Weighted average cost of capital (WACC) is a calculation of a firm's cost of capital in which each category of capital is ...
  5. Basis Point (BPS)

    A unit that is equal to 1/100th of 1%, and is used to denote the change in a financial instrument. The basis point is commonly ...
  6. Sharing Economy

    An economic model in which individuals are able to borrow or rent assets owned by someone else.
Trading Center