The way you file your taxes changes depending on whether you are single (including divorced and widowed) or married.  Married people may file a joint federal and state tax return, which may have a financial impact because your income is combined.  You could end up paying lower or higher taxes when married versus unmarried.  

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One item to be aware of is the so-called “marriage penalty.”  Filing jointly, also called “income averaging,” typically benefits couples with disparate incomes, such as if one spouse has a much lower income than the other spouse (as with one working spouse and one stay-at-home spouse).  Combining incomes may put the higher earnings into a lower tax bracket. To compensate, the tax bracket is not strictly doubled, but this only applies to the top four income brackets (25% and over).  Those with higher combined incomes that are disparate will still see a tax benefit, but a couple with similar incomes would pay more in taxes compared to their single counterparts making the same income.  

The tax impact of getting married or divorced varies, and depends on your state and your income, so it’s important to talk to a financial adviser, or do a test run on your taxes using a program like TurboTax before you get married to so you know what to expect.  Also, remember to adjust your tax withholding on a W-2 form so you don’t get stung with an unexpected tax bill the year after your marital status changes to married or back to being single.

Also note that in the eyes of the IRS, your legal status for the entire tax year is determined by your status on the last day of that tax year (December 31st). So if you’re planning on getting married or divorced towards the end of the year and you know you’re going to face negative tax consequences when the change occurs, you might consider delaying your wedding or divorce (if practical) until the next tax year to avoid paying additional taxes.

Get started Start Your Prenuptial Agreement Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.

Get started Start Your Prenuptial Agreement Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.