What are some married tax benefits of filing jointly?

Some of the benefits afforded to married tax payers who file jointly include the ability to qualify for more tax credits and higher income thresholds for other credits and deductions, according to TurboTax. Joint filers also receive larger Individual Retirement Account contribution deductions, capital loss deduction limits and standard deductions.

What are some items on a tax checklist for individuals?

Some tax credits that married filing jointly tax payers may be eligible for include the Earned Income Tax Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the Lifetime Learning Education Tax Credit, the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and the Adoption Tax Credit, according to TurboTax. For taxpayers who sell a home that they have lived in for at least two of the last five years, the allowable amount that can be excluded from the tax payers' income is double if filing jointly, according to Bankrate.

What’s the benefit of filing married filing jointly vs. married filing separately?

You're almost always better off married filing jointly (MFJ). Many tax benefits aren't available if you file separate returns. Ex: You can’t claim a majority of the credits if you file separately. Also, if you file jointly, your standard deduction (if you don't itemize) will be higher. This usually causes your taxable income and tax to be lower.

Married filing separately (MFS) might benefit you if you’re liable for Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) on a joint return. However, this is only true if only one spouse is liable on a separate return.

The best way to figure out whether married filing jointly or married filing separately will benefit you the most is to prepare your returns both ways. Then, choose the filing status with the lowest net balance due or refund.

If you choose married filing jointly, both of you can be held responsible for the tax and any interest or penalty due. One spouse might be held responsible for all the tax due -- even if the other spouse earned all the income. If either spouse doesn't agree to file jointly, then both spouses must file separately. There’s an exception if one of you qualifies for head of household status (HOH).

Filing Status - Compare Married Filing Joint to Married Filing Separate - Federal and State

All information entered on the federal return flows to the attached state return(s). It is not possible to completely calculate the difference between filing a state return jointly or separately without actually completing the returns to compare.

Use the steps below to do the comparison by preparing multiple returns in TaxAct®:

TaxAct Return #1 - Spouse A and Spouse B prepare a federal return with filing status Married Filing Joint, including both spouse's information. Attach to this federal return a state return as Married Filing Jointly.

TaxAct Return #2 - Spouse A prepares a federal return with filing status Married Filing Separate, including only Spouse A's information. Attach a state return to this federal return so Spouse A's information will flow to the state return.

TaxAct Return #3 - Spouse B prepares a federal return with filing status Married Filing Separate, including only Spouse B's information. Attach a state return to this federal return so Spouse B's information will flow to the state return.

The combined federal form (in TaxAct Return #1) should equal the two federal forms that were completed for each taxpayer separately.

Compare the total refunds/amount due to determine the best filing status for you to use on your federal and state return.

Note: there are some states that allow Married Filing Separately on a combined return where the above instructions would not apply.

TaxAct users can also utilize the Joint vs. Separate Analysis report in the review steps. After you have finished entering information into your joint return, click the Review tab, then Reports directly below the tabs. Continue to the screen titled Joint vs. Separate Analysis and click Review Joint vs. Separate (or Yes if this is your first time on the screen) to enter information for the report. When you are finished, click View Report to see a complete analysis, including estimated refund amounts for each filing status.