Effect of marital status on taxes
October 8, 2007 4:53 PM   Subscribe

U.S. tax question: Does married filing separately result in the same tax obligation as if a couple living together were filing as single? Does having a child create differering results?
posted by hodyoaten to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is the first hit on google. Not to be mean, but seriously, did you even try looking? This outlines your questions.

Yes, having dependents affects your taxes, but not as much when you're married-filing-separate. MFS generally can't deduct as much - heck, it looks like you aren't even deducting as much as single people are. You can't lie and say you're single.
posted by cobaltnine at 5:09 PM on October 8, 2007

To answer your first question: many times it doesn't. There are several tax credits that you cannot take advantage of if you file separately, such as the Lifetime Learning Credit. There are probably several others.
posted by marionnette en chaussette at 5:10 PM on October 8, 2007

On the first question: compare the single tax table with the married-filing-separately table here. The rates are identical for incomes up to $61850, but at that point, the MFS goes into the 28% tax bracket, while the Single remains at 25% up to $74,200, and so on. So, filing single has the advantage. If you're married, though, you need to file either married or MFS.
posted by beagle at 5:21 PM on October 8, 2007

Married filing separately almost always results in more tax owed than married filing jointly. Very frequently either/both of these result in more tax owed than if the two people could file singly (which they can't); this is referred to as the "marriage penalty," which is another useful Googlable phrase.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:29 PM on October 8, 2007

What ikkyu2 said. For some reason the IRS really hates Married Filing Separately and does all it can to make it suck. You get most of the disadvantages of filing single, especially in income phaseouts for ROTHs and a ton of other things, and most of the disadvantages of filing jointly, too. In fact, off the top of my head, I can't think of a single advantage the IRS has given to Married Filing Separately.

(That said, IANA tax preparer.)
posted by small_ruminant at 9:05 AM on October 9, 2007

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