In order to qualify for the married filing joint filing status, you must meet the following IRS requirements. You must be married on the last day of the tax year, even if you did not live with your spouse. If your spouse files as married filing separately, then you cannot file as married filing jointly.
If your spouse died in the same tax year and you did not remarry in the same tax year or you were married at the end of the tax year but your spouse died before filing that year’s tax return select this filing status.
Benefits of Filing Jointly
There are benefits of filing married filing jointly. You and your Spouse will receive a greater Standard Deduction. Compared to Married Filing Separately, you can qualify for multiple tax credits. This includes the Earned Income Credit, the American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Education Tax Credits, Child and Dependent Care.
Keep in mind, with this filing status means this is a joint responsibility. Both of you must report all income, exemptions, and deductions to the best of your ability. You are both responsible for any tax penalty or tax liability. The Spouse will be held responsible if the taxpayer does not pay the tax due. Also, if one Spouse doesn’t report their income correctly, both Spouses are responsible for any additional assessments required by the IRS.
If you believe that your Spouse isn’t reporting their income correctly, and you do not want to be responsible for any tax due because of your Spouse then you may want to file separately.
When filing a joint return, both the taxpayer and Spouse must agree upon doing so and both must sign the tax return.
Note: If married, it is typically more beneficial to file jointly rather than separately. However, in certain cases, for example, if both of you fall in higher income brackets; you may want to file separately to avoid the alternative minimum tax. Read more about what is the alternative minimum tax.