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Tax advice for newlyweds

Posted: Monday, Mar. 30, 2009

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With all the excitement and joys of getting married, the last thing on the minds of many couples is probably taxes. However, tax day will eventually arrive, and newlyweds need to be prepared. Much like the many details of a wedding, smart planning with taxes pays off and can help avoid unwanted headaches later. And while you shouldn’t delay the cake-cutting or honeymoon because of taxes, these helpful tips just might come in handy when your first “married” tax deadline rolls around.

Use the correct name

Taxpayers must inform the appropriate agencies of any name changes and then provide correct names and identification numbers on their tax returns. A bride who takes her husband’s last name must complete and submit SSA Form SS-5, “Application for a Social Security Card,” available through the Social Security Administration Web site at www.ssa.gov, or by calling 1-800-772-1213.

Report your address change

If one or both spouses will have a new address, they must notify the Internal Revenue Service, as well as the U.S. Postal Service, to be sure any IRS correspondence does not go astray. Couples may notify the IRS by writing to the IRS center where they filed their most recent returns, including their full names, old and new addresses, Social Security numbers and signatures. Or, use IRS Form 8822*, “Change of Address Form.”

Choose the best filing status

A joint return (Married Filing Jointly) allows spouses to combine their income and to deduct combined deductions and expenses on a single tax return. Both spouses must sign the return, and both are held responsible for the contents. With separate returns (Married Filing Separately), each spouse signs, files and is responsible for his or her own tax reporting. Each is taxed on his or her own income, and can take only his or her individual deductions and credits. If one spouse itemizes deductions, the other must also.

Figuring the tax both ways can determine which filing status will result in the lowest tax – usually, it’s filing jointly. Detailed information on filing status can be found in Publication 501*, “Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.”

Check your withholding

Individuals should check how their withholding may be affected by a change in filing status. Wage earners can adjust the amount withheld by giving the employer a new Form W-4, which asks for marital status, withholding allowances and any additional amount that needs to be withheld. Employers use the information on the W-4 to figure the taxes to be withheld from employee compensation according to calculation methods provided by the IRS. For assistance, refer to IRS Pub. 919*, “How Do I Adjust My Tax Withholding?” Online help is also available at the IRS Web site, where an individual can use current pay stubs and a copy of last year’s tax form to determine if his or her withholding is correct. Click on “IRS Withholding Calculator” on the “Individuals” page.

Select the right filing form

Newly married taxpayers may find that together they have enough deductions to itemize on their tax return(s). Deductions for money paid for medical care, mortgage interest, real estate taxes, state and local income taxes or general sales taxes, charitable contributions, casualty losses and certain miscellaneous costs can reduce federal taxes. Form 1040*, which is used to report all types of income, deductions and credits, is the one to use if itemizing. (Forms 1040EZ and 1040A do not allow such itemization.)

* Tax forms may be obtained online from the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov, or by calling the toll-free Forms and Publications line at 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676).

Mark W. Hanson is a Field Media Relations Specialist for the U. S. Internal Revenue Service.

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