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. Married Filing Jointly

    A filing status for married couples that have wed before the ...
  2. Joint Return

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

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

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

    A document published by the Internal Revenue Service that covers ...
  6. IRS Publication 971: Innocent Spouse ...

    A document published by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that ...
Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    Newlyweds? Tips For Filing Your Tax Return

    For many couples, it pays to file for taxes together. But what are some of the obstacles you should watch out for?
  2. Personal Finance

    Happily Married? File Taxes Separately!

    Just because you are in love doesn't mean that a joint return is best for both of you.
  3. Retirement

    Top Reasons to File Separately When Married

    Usually couples file their taxes jointly, not separately. Except for these possible exceptions...
  4. Personal Finance

    Should Married Taxpayers File Together?

    Married couples that file a joint tax return can enjoy several credits and benefits that aren’t available when filing separately.
  5. Financial Advisor

    Tax Time is Coming; Don't Be Caught Off Guard

    It's time to think about tax returns again. The good news is that the regulations in 2016 have not changed dramatically from last year.
  6. Personal Finance

    Income Tax Brackets for 2015-2016

    Learn about the 2015-2016 tax brackets, how to calculate your marginal tax rate, the five types of filing status and how to qualify for them.
  7. Personal Finance

    Gay Marriage and Taxes: Everything You Should Know

    Same-sex couples now have a variety of tax strategies to consider.
  8. Financial Advisor

    2016 Tax Code Changes Add Some Wiggle Room

    It's never too early to prepare for tax season. Next year features a host of tax law changes. Check our handy list to see which ones apply to you.
  9. 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.
  10. Personal Finance

    Are You Really Eligible For The Earned Income Tax Credit?

    The amount of your earned income credit (EIC) is dependent upon how big your family is.
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. I don't have taxable income at age 73, do I still file taxes for 2015?

  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. Are mutual fund withdrawals all capital gains losses?

    Someone age 88 sells mutual fund shares. The 1099-B shows all sales to be capital gains losses. This person has no gains ... Read Answer >>
  6. With death of my spouse in December 2015, can I still file jointly for 2015 like ...

    Spouse and I have always completed a joint tax return, though we haven't needed to file for years with our low income. My ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Dove

    An economic policy advisor who promotes monetary policies that involve the maintenance of low interest rates, believing that ...
  2. Cyclical Stock

    An equity security whose price is affected by ups and downs in the overall economy. Cyclical stocks typically relate to companies ...
  3. Front Running

    The unethical practice of a broker trading an equity based on information from the analyst department before his or her clients ...
  4. After-Hours Trading - AHT

    Trading after regular trading hours on the major exchanges. The increasing popularity of electronic communication networks ...
  5. Omnibus Account

    An account between two futures merchants (brokers). It involves the transaction of individual accounts which are combined ...
  6. Weighted Average Life - WAL

    The average number of years for which each dollar of unpaid principal on a loan or mortgage remains outstanding. Once calculated, ...
Trading Center