Some newlyweds face a "marriage tax penalty". Right here's when it hits

Digital vision | Photo disc | Getty Images

If you tied the knot last year, it may be worthwhile to check out what your new status means for your 2020 taxes.

While many couples see their tax burden drop after marriage, some face a "marriage penalty" – that is, they pay more tax than if they had stayed unmarried and filed as a single taxpayer.

"In some cases you can save money, and sometimes you can save money," said certified financial planner and CPA Jeffrey Levine, chief planning officer at Buckingham Wealth Partners in Long Island, New York. "But it doesn't cost as much as the wedding."

In principle, the marriage penalty applies if the threshold values ​​for the tax bracket and the deductions or credits are not twice as high as the amount permitted for individual applicants. For example, newlyweds sometimes find that a larger tax burden is an unfortunate side effect of marriage.

For marriages that were concluded at any point in the last year, you must file your 2020 tax return together as a married couple. (Filing a separate tax return as a married couple rarely makes financial sense.)

The IRS will begin accepting tax returns on February 12th. The agency estimates more than 150 million tax returns will be filed this year, with the vast majority being filed before April 15.

Here's what you should know about marriage tax penalty.

Higher income couples

A higher tax burden for earners can come from a variety of sources.

The 2020 yield is subject to the highest federal tax rate of 37% for taxable income of $ 518,400 for individual applicants. However, for married couples filing together, this rate applies to income of $ 622,050 and above.

"Except for the maximum rate, all tax brackets for married couples filing together are exactly twice that," said Erica York, an economist with the Tax Foundation's Center for Federal Tax Policy.

More from Personal Finance:
The Fed is not going to keep rates near zero forever
One year after Covid in America: a financial snapshot
A ten year guide to retirement planning

To illustrate, two people with an income of $ 500,000 each would pay the second highest tax rate of 35% if filing as a single taxpayer.

However, as a married couple with a combined income of $ 1 million, they would pay 37% to $ 377,950 of that (the difference between their income and the $ 622,050 threshold for the highest rate). That would mean paying about $ 7,760 more in income tax for 2020.

There are other provisions of the tax code that can often affect higher earners more severely when they get married. For example, while a person could have wages up to $ 200,000 before the Medicare 0.9% surcharge kicks in, the limit for married couples is $ 250,000.

Likewise, the income threshold for the 3.8% capital gains tax will not be doubled. Singles with modified adjusted gross income greater than $ 200,000 pay the tax, while married couples filing an application together pay the tax if their income exceeds $ 250,000. (The tax applies to things like interest, dividends, capital gains, and rental or royalty fees.)

In addition, the limit on state and local tax deductions – also known as SALT – is not doubled for married couples. The $ 10,000 limit applies to both single applicants and married applicants. (Couples filing separately will each receive $ 5,000 for deduction). However, the deduction is only available to taxpayers who do a breakdown.

Low wage earners

For those with incomes at the other end of the income spectrum, a marriage penalty may result from the earned income tax credit.

The credit is generally available to working taxpayers with children, provided they meet income limits and other requirements. Some low-income earners without children are also eligible.

Because it is refundable – which means it can be refundable even if your tax burden is zero – it is considered valuable to working parents on low or modest incomes.

However, the income limits associated with the tax break are not doubled for married couples (see graphic).

State taxes

Fifteen states also have a marriage penalty for taxpayers built into their marginal tax brackets, although this is more evident in some places than in others. For example, Maryland's 2020 maximum rate of 5.75% applies to income over $ 250,000 for single applicants and over $ 300,000 for married couples.

Some states allow married couples to file separately on the same return so as not to face a penalty and loss of credit or exemptions.

"It's a workaround for the penalty that would otherwise be incurred," said York of the Tax Foundation.

Beware of social security income

If you are retired and already on Social Security, be aware that getting married can have additional tax implications.

For individual applicants, if the total of your Adjusted Gross Income, non-taxable interest, and half of your Social Security benefits is less than $ 25,000, you owe no tax on those benefits. However, for married couples filing a joint return, the threshold is $ 32,000 instead of double the amount for individuals.

Additionally, if you or your new spouse contributed to traditional or Roth individual retirement accounts in 2020, be sure to keep an eye on how much you invested in these IRAs. There are limits to deductions and contributions, and the income of both spouses feeds the equation.

The Tax Policy Center has a marriage calculator that you can use to enter the details of your and your partner's financial life – wages, business income, children you depend on, etc. – to see how your taxes are doing Submission develop as a married couple.

Comments are closed.