by Michael Lodge
So here is the deal, I am a tax accountant and also a marriage officiant – I perform weddings for people. I get both couples to say I do. Yep, I get them with one stone, get them married and plan for their taxes. The other day my staff were sitting around the table in our office kitchen and the subject of marriage came up. The questions was asked – why get married – what are the benefits. We sat there and thought and came up with the following advantages.
- Love – fill in the blanks. OK, I will give you a quick marriage sermon you should never forget and think about every year at anniversary time, or every time you have a loud discussion.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
- It’s Cheaper – single individuals pay more to live single. Married people can buy for two, cooking for two is less costly then cooking for one. They can save money on non-monetary items, they can share cleaning the house, cooking, they each share in the time and money to take care of the house. Saves time and money.
- Married Couples Help Their Community – when two are married they get more involved in their communities, schools, churches and community events and activities. They get involved in community volunteering in various charities.
- Social Security Benefits – SS offers good benefits for spouses.If you are married you are entitled to receive spousal benefits both after your spouse retires as well as if your spouse become disabled. In addition, survivors benefits can give you payments for the rest of your life after your spouse dies.
- No Estate Tax On Inheritances – if you have enough wealth to have to pay an estate tax, then trying to leave a bequest can come with a hefty price tag. Estate tax rates are currently 40%, meaning that for every $60 that goes to your chosen heirs, $40 could go to the IRS. If you are married you are entitled to get an unlimited marital deduction for money you leave to your spouse. And being married can effictively double the amount of money a couple can leave to future generations, which is especially helpful if one spouse was responsible for building up that wealth.
When you get married you will also have tax changes. This is important to consider, especially looking at what time of the year is best to get married. Lindsey Buchoiz of the Tax Institute has come up with several tax issues every person considering marriage should think about. Sit down with your tax professional and see what needs to be done prior and after you get married.
- Filing status. Once you get married, the only filing statuses that can be used on your tax return are married filing jointly (MFJ)or married filing separately (MFS). Your filing status is determined on December 31 of each year, so even if you were not married for most of the tax year, you do not have the option of filing as single if you are married on that date. Generally, married filing jointly provides the most beneficial tax outcome for most couples because some deductions and credits are reduced or not available to married couples filing separate returns.
- Tax brackets. These brackets will determine the highest rate of tax imposed on your income. Tax brackets are different for each filing status, so your income may no longer be taxed at the same rate as when you were single. When you are married and file a joint return, your income is combined — which, in turn, may put one or both of you into a higher or lower tax bracket, depending on your incomes and the brackets you were in when you were single.
- Additional exemptions and increased standard deduction. Married couples filing a joint return get to claim two personal exemptions (one for each of you) on the tax return instead of the one exemption allowed when you filed as a single individual. Additionally, the standard deduction allowed on the tax return is highest for married couples filing a joint return. (Exemptions and deductions are explained here:http://blogs.hrblock.com/2014/04/12/three-days-left-tax-terminology-explained/) For 2016, single taxpayers are allowed a standard deduction of $6,300, while married couples filing a joint return are allowed a deduction of $12,600.
Additionally, a dependent exemption is allowed for each child claimed as a dependent on the tax return. This amount is generally $4,050 per child (for 2016).
- Changing your W-4. Because of the additional exemption and higher standard deduction you are allowed to claim on a joint tax return, it may be wise to change Form W-4with your employer to reflect these changes. Claiming an additional allowance and/or changing withholding to the “married” rate on your Form W-4 means that less taxes are withheld from your pay.
- Buying your first home or selling one. When you own a home, interest you pay on your mortgage and real estate taxes are deductible on your tax return as itemized deductions. Once you get married, your combined incomes may allow you to purchase your first home or you may choose to sell individual homes owned before the marriage. If you are selling a home, the amount of gain that can be excluded from income doubles from $250,000 to $500,000. Be cautious, though: if only one of you owned the home before the marriage, the $500,000 exclusion applies only if you bothlived in the home as your main home for at least two years.
- Itemizing vs. claiming the standard deduction. When you file your return each year, you have to determine if it is more beneficial for you to itemize as opposed to claiming the standard deduction. Once you are married and own a home, many people find that it is more advantageous to itemize their deductions — typically because deductions such as mortgage interest result in a higher total deductible amount than the standard deduction. Even if you do not own a home, your combined charitable contributions, state taxes and other expenses may make itemizing worthwhile.
- Gift taxes and estate planning. Spouses are allowed to give unlimited gifts of cash or other property to one another without filing a gift tax return or paying gift taxes. This provision has important implications for estate planning purposes, so be sure to revisit your estate plan once you get married.
- Name change with Social Security. Because your return is filed under your Social Security number (SSN), it is important to ensure that the Social Security Administration (SSA)has been notified of any name changes that take place. The SSA must process the change in the system and relay that information to the IRS before filing your return. You should wait to file your return until after the name change process has been completed to avoid any complications that could arise if the name on the return does not match the SSN on file with the SSA.
- Marriage penalty. A marriage penalty exists when two individuals filing a joint return pay more tax than the sum of their individual tax liabilities calculated as if they were filing as single taxpayers. One reason this occurs is because the MFJ income tax brackets and standard deduction are not always equal to twice the single income tax bracket and standard deduction. Under current law, the marriage penalty is partly alleviated because the lower income tax bracket (10% and 15%) and the standard deduction for MFJ are exactly double that of single individuals.
- Affordable Care Act premium tax credit. If either or both of you receive advance payments of thepremium tax creditfor health insurance purchased through a federal or state Marketplace, you should report your marriage (as well as any associated changes, such as a move to a different state, change in income, or change in family size) to the Marketplace. This will allow the Marketplace to adjust your advance credit payments if necessary.
If you have any questions call our office at: 877.778.1770 and visit our web site at: www.icontaxgroup.com