If you've recently gotten married, your financial, legal and tax situations could be affected. Here are some important elements to consider.

Pro-forma Current-Year Return
Take your latest pay stubs along with last-year's tax returns to a tax professional and have a pro forma joint return prepared. Be sure to let the tax pro know about any items that will be different.

For example, if neither of you owned a home and you are buying one, the tax pro will take the interest and taxes you expect to pay into account. If the pro forma joint return results in a balance due and this is unsatisfactory to you, you can increase your withholding by filing new Forms W-4 or by making estimated tax payments to cover the expected balance due.

Because of your newly combined income, you may lose benefits (such as the Earned Income Credit and the Child Tax Credit) you were able to claim before you were married, especially if you filed as Head of Household before the marriage.

Social Security Number
Your social security number stays the same regardless of your marital or filing status. If you do change your name, you should apply for a social security card in your new name. This process can only be done through your local Social Security office, using form SS-5. If your name and number don't match, you may see a delay in the processing of your tax return and any refunds that are due to you.

New Address
If you move to a new address after you're married, you'll want to inform the IRS. It's not required, but if the post office doesn't correctly file your change of address form, it can result in delays in refunds and any correspondence with the IRS. To change your address, file Form 8822.

Filing Status
Your status on the last day of the year determines your filing status for the entire year. If you're married, you and your spouse can choose to file a joint return or file separate returns. Unless you are required to file separately, you should figure your tax both ways (on a joint return and on separate returns) to determine which filing status is best for you.

Married Filing Jointly
You can choose Married Filing Jointly as your filing status if you're married and both you and your spouse agree to file a joint return. With a joint return:
  • You report your combined income and deduct your combined allowable expenses.
  • Your tax may be lower than your combined tax for the other filing statuses.
  • You may qualify for tax benefits that would not apply if you filed separately.

Married Filing Separately
This filing status may benefit you if you want to be responsible only for your tax or if it results in less combined tax than filing a joint return. With separate returns:
  • You generally report only your own income, exemptions, credits and deductions on your individual return.
  • You can claim an exemption for your spouse if your spouse had no gross income and was not the dependent of another person.
  • You will generally pay more combined tax on separate returns than you would on a joint return because you are not able to claim as many credits and deductions.

Married taxpayers typically file a joint return because of the added tax benefits and credits. If you choose Married Filing Separately as your filing status, special rules apply. To learn more about filing separately, see IRS Publication 501.

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