When should you consider filing “Married Filing Separate”?

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I represent taxpayers in Gainesville and the state of Florida who have tax issues with the IRS and Florida Department of Revenue. Couples who file jointly, become liable for the total taxes reported and any future taxes that might be assessed by the IRS. This can be an economically dangerous position to be in for some spouses.

Married Filing Separate is an option that should be considered when:

  •          One spouse is self-employed and the other has a regular job with income tax withholding
  •          One spouse has large pass-due tax liabilities or student debts.
  •          The marriage is on the skids and the spouses are no longer cohabiting
  •          The couple desires to keep their finances separate on general principals
  •          One spouse, for whatever reason, refuses to file tax returns
  •          One spouse knows that the other spouse is underreporting their income

Married Filing Joint will usually produce a smaller tax bill than Married Filing Separate, but the joint liability can produce very big negative results for the spouse who has reported their income and paid their taxes. Usually the biggest negatives for Married Filing Separate is the loss of credits such as the child and dependent care tax credit and the earned income tax credit.   

How should you approach the problem? For people in the last two situations, the non-filer and the under-reporter, Married Filing Separate is the only option. For all others, calculate the tax both ways so that you can understand what you are giving up is the first step. If the difference seems large, then Married Filing Joint is the reasonable approach.

The IRS does offer some options for people who get caught up in unexpected consequences of joint liability. See http://activerain.com/blogsview/5412301/injured-spouse-vs--innocent-spouse for more information.

If you or someone you know has received a Notice of Intent to Levy or some other federal or state tax issue, please feel free to contact me at either (352) 317-5692 or email jim@backoffice2.net.


Jim Payne, CPA


Gainesville, FL

Cell (352) 317-5692

Office (352) 376-9401

Fax (352) 376-9440




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Jim Payne, CPA

CPA firm practicing in the area of IRS Collections
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