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married filing separately

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Level 2

I have two taxpayers, for whom I prepared individual tax return for 2018.  They got married in 2019. In order to file Married filing separately, do I prepare their individual 2019 tax returns as if they were single taxpayers but check off the box "Married filing separately"? I'm assuming that the program will calculate all the relevant deductions correctly.

The reason I'm asking is that I prepared their return both ways and the "married filing separately" actually gives them better results.  I find that unbelievable.  Any comments?

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Level 3

If you have already input the data for them as joint, there is a "Split MFJ return" option under the FILE menu. This will split them. As long as you have the MFS indicators on, it will assign the proper deductions to each spouse. Of course, if you have already entered them separately, just mark the MFS box in the filing status. There is also a MFS "what-if" worksheet that will tell you what you are going to get, once you split the return, this way, you can make adjustments before you split.

In my experience, most couples who have equal income above $50-60k with no children or tax credits to claim, benefit from MFS. It's less since 2018 because the standard deduction is so high, but generally the tax bracket alone is enough to justify MFS. 

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Level 15
Community property state?

ex-AllStar
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Level 2

No, Illinois

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Level 3

If you have already input the data for them as joint, there is a "Split MFJ return" option under the FILE menu. This will split them. As long as you have the MFS indicators on, it will assign the proper deductions to each spouse. Of course, if you have already entered them separately, just mark the MFS box in the filing status. There is also a MFS "what-if" worksheet that will tell you what you are going to get, once you split the return, this way, you can make adjustments before you split.

In my experience, most couples who have equal income above $50-60k with no children or tax credits to claim, benefit from MFS. It's less since 2018 because the standard deduction is so high, but generally the tax bracket alone is enough to justify MFS. 

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Level 2

I use ProSeries Basic. It doesn't have "Split MFJ return".

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Level 15
Level 15

So switching them from Single to MFS makes the situation better?  or MFS comes out better than MFJ?


♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥Lisa♥¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪
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Level 2

Well, I can't file them Single since they married in Sept 2019.  However, filing "married, filing jointly" gives them smaller refund than MFS.  I just wanted to make sure that if I transfer their 2018 tax return to the 2019 program, I can use that but check the MFS box for each of them.

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Level 15
Level 15

As long as theyre not in a community property state, you can do it that way.


♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥Lisa♥¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪
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Level 10

While this is unusual, it's not completely impossible.  If one spouse itemizes you have to make sure to force the other spouse to itemize.  You're not allowed to use itemized deductions on one return and a standard deduction on the other.

I see this once in a while if one spouse has large medical expenses (then you're losing 7.5% of a smaller AGI number by filing MFS).  Pre-TCJA it might also be triggered by 2106 expenses (2% of a smaller AGI) and there were some cases involving child tax credit (before they raised the AGI limit to $400K).

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Level 2

I believe that Ms Gretle's response sums it up pretty well.  Higher earning couple, with no deductions and no children will benefit from MFS.  Thank you all for contributing.  It was an educational experience.

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Level 3

I would point out  that by filing Married Filing Separately, if one of the couple has substantially higher income, only the higher income spouse might be hit with increased Medicare part B and D premiums while the lower income spouse stays with no penalties.  This could save the couple substantially.  Might be worth paying a little more income taxes up front.