Articles tagged with: joint filing

Should You File Jointly, Or Not?

For many married couples, filing jointly is a good idea, but there are exceptions.

Ninety-five percent of married couples file joint federal tax returns. Filing jointly can be convenient. Frequently, there’s a financial advantage, but that does not mean it should be done without consideration.1

Years ago, there was less incentive to file jointly. That was because the “marriage penalty” for doing so was effectively greater. There is no written “marriage penalty” in the Internal Revenue Code, but, in the past, income tax brackets were structured a bit differently and spouses having similar annual incomes sometimes paid more taxes by filing jointly than single taxpayers did.

There are many good reasons to file jointly. Nearly all of them involve saving money.

Joint filing may give you an effective tax break right off the bat. Currently, married taxpayers who file separately face the 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6% income tax brackets at lower income thresholds than other unmarried taxpayers.2

Joint filers can claim significant tax credits that marrieds filing separately cannot. If you want to claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit, the Elderly or Disabled Credit, or the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), you have to file jointly. Joint filing also gives you the potential to claim the full Child Tax Credit, rather than a reduced one.3

Deductions, too, decrease when you file separately as a married couple. Standard deductions fall significantly. Phase-out ranges affect itemized deductions, and some itemized deductions are unavailable for married couples who do not file jointly. Couples who file separate 1040s can only deduct 50% of the capital gains losses joint filers can. In addition, if one spouse elects to itemize deductions, so must the other (there must be a separate Schedule A for each spouse). The spouse with fewer deductions has no ability to use the standard deduction to lower his or her taxable income.2,3

Joint filing even helps you with regard to the Alternative Minimum Tax. When you file separately as a married couple, your AMT exemption falls by 50%. So you may be more susceptible to the AMT if you file separately. If the AMT affects you, you will find many federal tax deductions reduced or unavailable to you.3

Do you live in a community property state? If you do, you may know that state tax law defines what is considered separately held or jointly held property. If you want to itemize deductions in a community property state, the paperwork can be onerous.3

More of your Social Security benefits may be taxed if you file separately. Social Security gives you a “base exemption,” an income threshold above which Social Security benefits may be taxable. The base exemption for married couples filing jointly is $32,000, meaning that if 50% of the Social Security benefits you receive in a tax year plus your other income in a tax year exceeds $32,000, taxes may apply. The base exemption for married couples filing separately who live together at any time during the tax year is $0. It improves to $25,000 for married couples filing separately who live apart for an entire year.4

So why would you not file jointly when married? In certain circumstances, filing separately may be wiser.

Maybe you do not trust your spouse financially. If your spouse is a tax cheat or interprets federal tax law very loosely, filing jointly could prove hazardous in the case of an audit or other troubles. Both spouses must sign a joint return, meaning that both spouses are legally responsible for all taxes, penalties, and fines linked to that return. Yes, an innocent spouse may be offered tax protection by the IRS, but that innocence must be proven.2,3

Maybe you or your spouse have large out-of-pocket medical expenses. If so, and if the spouse contending with such bills earns much less than the other, there may be merit in filing separately. By doing so, the spouse with far less income might have an opportunity to meet the 10% AGI threshold needed to itemize medical expenses. (The 7.5% AGI threshold for itemizing these costs is still in place for taxpayers age 65 and older.)2

Maybe you are separating or divorcing. If that is the case, then it may seem only natural to begin filing separately while still married. Doing so now may lessen the chance of the two of you wading through tax issues in the aftermath of a split.

If you are unsure about whether to file jointly or singly, you can ask a tax professional for his or her opinion. Or, that professional can look at last year’s return and run the numbers for you. Most couples find that filing jointly works out best, but there are exceptions.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at phone# 641-464-2248 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com
Website: www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2016/01/26/married-filing-joint-tax-returns-irs-helps-some-couples-with-offshore-accounts/ [2/6/16]
2 – abcnews.go.com/Business/filing-taxes-jointly-good-idea/story?id=22504248 [2/17/14]
3 – foxbusiness.com/features/2015/03/06/should-couples-file-taxes-separately-or-jointly-which-is-best-for.html [3/6/15]
4 – irs.com/articles/how-are-social-security-benefits-taxed [2/11/16]

IRS Raises Retirement Plan Contribution Limits

Roth & traditional IRAs won’t get 2015 COLAs, but other plans will.

A little inflation means a little adjustment. As the Consumer Price Index is up 1.7% over the last 12 months, the federal government is giving Social Security benefits a 1.7% boost for 2015 and lifting annual contribution limits on key pension plans as well.1

401(k), 403(b), 457 & TSP annual contribution limits increase by $500. You will be able to defer up to $18,000 into these plans in 2015. The catch-up contribution limit will also rise by $500 to $6,000 next year, so if you are 50 or older in 2015 you are eligible to contribute up to $24,000 to these retirement savings vehicles. (The above adjustments do not apply to all 457 plans.)2

SIMPLE IRAs get a similar COLA. Their base contribution and catch-up contribution limits also go up $500 for 2015. The limit for the base contribution will be $12,500 next year, and the catch-up limit rises to $3,000.3

Limits also rise for SEP-IRAs and Solo(k)s. Small business owners will want to take note of the new maximum deferral amount of $53,000 for 2015, a $1,000 increase. As for the compensation limit factored into the savings calculation, that limit will be $265,000 next year, $5,000 more than the 2014 limit. A side note: the threshold for an employee to be included in a SEP plan goes up $50 to $600 next year (i.e., that worker has to receive $550 or more in compensation from your business in 2015).2,3

Take note of the slightly higher phase-out range for Roth IRA contributions. Next year, you won’t be able to make a Roth IRA contribution if your AGI exceeds $193,000 as a married couple filing jointly, or $131,000 should you be a single filer or head of household. Those figures are $2,000 above the 2014 eligibility thresholds. Joint filers with AGI of $183,001-193,000 and singles and heads of household with AGI of $116,001-131,000 will be able to make a partial rather than full Roth IRA contribution next year.3     

Phase-out ranges on the deduction of regular IRA contributions have also been altered. Here are the 2015 adjustments to these thresholds (this gets pretty involved). If you are a single filer or file as a head of household and you contribute to a traditional IRA and you are also covered by a workplace retirement plan, the AGI phase-out range for you is $1,000 higher next year ($61,001-71,000). If you file jointly and contribute to a traditional IRA and are also covered by a workplace retirement plan, the AGI phase-out range is $98,001-118,000. Above the high end of those phase-out ranges, you can’t claim a deduction for traditional IRA contributions.2

If you contribute to a traditional IRA and your employer doesn’t sponsor a retirement plan, yet your spouse contributes to a workplace retirement plan, the AGI phase-out on deductions of traditional IRA contributions strikes when your combined AGI ranges from $183,001-193,000.2

And if you are married, filing separately and covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range on deductions of traditional IRA contributions is $0-$10,000 (this never receives a COLA).2,3

AGI limits for the Saver’s Credit increase. Americans saving for retirement on modest incomes will be eligible for the credit next year if their AGI falls underneath certain thresholds: single filers and marrieds filing separately, adjusted gross income of $30,500 or less; heads of household, AGI of $45,750 or less; joint filers, $61,000 or less.3

Contribution limits for profit-sharing plans rise as per limits for 401(k)s. A participant in such a plan is looking at a 2015 elective deferral limit of $18,000 ($24,000 if s

Mike Moffitt may be reached at phone# 641-782-5577 or mikem@cfgiowa.com or website:  www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC.  Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor.  Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – tinyurl.com/lxbv6rq [10/21/14]

2 – irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Announces-2015-Pension-Plan-Limitations;-Taxpayers-May-Contribute-up-to-$18,000-to-their-401%28k%29-plans-in-2015 [10/23/14]

3 – forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2014/10/23/irs-announces-2015-retirement-plan-contribution-limits-for-401ks-and-more/ [10/23/14]

4 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/COLA-Increases-for-Dollar-Limitations-on-Benefits-and-Contributions [10/23/14]

he or he is old enough to make catch-up contributions). The yearly compensation limit on such plans will be $5,000 higher in 2015 at $265,000.4