Newlyweds often spend a great deal of time going through the process of name changes, merging accounts, updating their insurance policies and otherwise joining their lives together. As the end of the year approaches and people begin getting ready for the upcoming tax season, newly married couples might benefit from setting up an appointment with a tax preparer to learn more about how their new status will affect their filing and avoid any potential mistakes when April 15 rolls around.
As a general rule, individuals who marry on or before Dec. 31, 2013 will be considered married for the entire tax year in the eyes of the IRS. This means that - even if the bride has yet to change her name with the Social Security Administration - the new couple must still file as either married filing jointly or married filing separately. Once couples have wed, individuals are no longer permitted to file as single. The end of the year may also be a good time for new spouses to determine whether they want to file jointly, as a number of rules apply to those who make this choice. In some cases, spouses may choose to file separately, especially if one person has a large number of medical expenses that may qualify him or her for a deduction. In other instances, couples may choose to file separate returns if one person has a large tax debt or wants to individually be responsible for his or her own income and tax liability.
Other guidelines to keep in mind
The first year of filing joint or separate taxes as a married couple can also be confusing when people start getting into dependent status and exemptions. An important note for couples to keep in mind is that their spouse is never their dependent. Instead, they would be considered a "personal exemption," and if individuals are filing a joint tax return, they may claim one exemption for themselves and one for their spouse.
Lastly, couples can still file joint and separate returns even if the bride has not yet legally changed her name. However, it's critical that she uses her legal name when filling out any tax documents. The name listed with the SSA must match up to the Social Security number of the person in order to avoid tax issues, so those planning on changing their name following their nuptials should always start with the federal agency.
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