“I make more money than my spouse, should we file separately?”

“My partner is still paying back student loans, so we have to file separately to keep their income down, right?”

We hear it all the time… Thankfully, when most people come to us asking about the benefits of Married Filing Jointly (MFJ) status vs Married Filing Separately (MFS) they’re open to some analysis from us. We usually try to avoid using jargon and acronyms, but we’re using MFJ and MFS today because, well, let’s be honest, that’s a mouthful otherwise! 😂

So what is the real story? When does Married Filing Separately (MFS) make sense? We’ve pulled together a few of the most important things you need to know.



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Most of the time, as in 99% of the time*, filing jointly will save you tax dollars. It’s the government’s little way of incentivizing marriage because… Well, that’s another blog post for another day. So if you’re at all curious about the difference, it’ll pay to have a professional prepare a side-by-side comparison for you before you wind up paying $7-10k more a year in taxes than you need to (for example). This way you can make a data-based decision that will be the best fit for your situation!

Looking for an accountant to help get you on track? Check out the 10 questions you need to ask when looking for an accountant.

*This is an unverified statistic because there’s no data collected about it, but this feels pretty accurate to us 🙂


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One of the biggest impacts of filing separately is that you actually create two tax accounts under your separate social security numbers instead of having just one account that you are jointly and severally liable for. That’s some fancy legal-speak meaning the IRS is able to pursue either of you OR both of you for the unpaid taxes on your joint tax account. But with separate accounts, one spouse is not liable for the taxes of the other, period.

So if you have serious concerns about either back tax debt, or a spouse’s inability to contribute, or that they’re just a flight risk 🛫 😆, then you might consider filing separately despite the additional taxes.


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You’re probably wondering, “why is the tax picture so different???” Well, the MFS status immediately impacts your ability to claim a number of deductions and credits. It also phases deductions out sooner in other cases.

  • You’ll lose any educational credits or deductions for tuition, etc.

  • Earned income credit will be lost.

  • The child tax credit can be affected.

All of these changes result in a higher overall effective tax rate for the two separate filers than you would have had jointly. 


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So does income disparity (one spouse with a high income, one spouse with a lower income) automatically mean you should think about filing separately? Not really! In fact, in most cases, a couple filing jointly with differences in their income, even of a hundred thousand dollars will still come out saving money by filing jointly. It’s rare these days that any marginal deductions the lower-income spouse could pick up will make up for all the lost positive effects of MFJ.

If anything, in our experience, the situations where you’d be more likely to have a lower tax bill MFS is where you have two equal, high-income earners that might just have different deduction profiles. 

But the most common way for an MFS situation to crop up is where one spouse is on a “% of income” student loan repayment plan and the other is a high-income earner. In that case (and particularly where student loan forgiveness is available after 10 years of payment), paying a little more in tax dollars for a while could wind up saving you some significant money.


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But just remember: if the student loans won’t be written off for you, paying your student loans isn’t really an expense. It’s a $0 impact on your net worth because you already owe the money. You’re just decreasing your debt while decreasing your cash. That’s a wash. Whereas paying extra taxes that you don’t need to pay—well that’s just a plain old expense. So make sure you’re making the right move for yourself long term.


So, there you have it — the Revel hot take on when it is better to file jointly vs separately. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Tell us what’s on your mind in the comments below!

And as always, if you feel you have a situation that could use some expert outside review, drop us a line and we’ll let you know if we can help!


“I make more money than my spouse, should we file separately?”

“My partner is still paying back student loans, so we have to file separately to keep their income down, right?”

We hear it all the time… Thankfully, when most people come to us asking about the benefits of Married Filing Jointly (MFJ) status vs Married Filing Separately (MFS) they’re open to some analysis from us. We usually try to avoid using jargon and acronyms, but we’re using MFJ and MFS today because, well, let’s be honest, that’s a mouthful otherwise! 😂

So what is the real story? When does Married Filing Separately (MFS) make sense? We’ve pulled together a few of the most important things you need to know.



MFS.001.jpeg

Most of the time, as in 99% of the time*, filing jointly will save you tax dollars. It’s the government’s little way of incentivizing marriage because… Well, that’s another blog post for another day. So if you’re at all curious about the difference, it’ll pay to have a professional prepare a side-by-side comparison for you before you wind up paying $7-10k more a year in taxes than you need to (for example). This way you can make a data-based decision that will be the best fit for your situation!

Looking for an accountant to help get you on track? Check out the 10 questions you need to ask when looking for an accountant.

*This is an unverified statistic because there’s no data collected about it, but this feels pretty accurate to us 🙂


Untitled.001.jpeg

One of the biggest impacts of filing separately is that you actually create two tax accounts under your separate social security numbers instead of having just one account that you are jointly and severally liable for. That’s some fancy legal-speak meaning the IRS is able to pursue either of you OR both of you for the unpaid taxes on your joint tax account. But with separate accounts, one spouse is not liable for the taxes of the other, period.

So if you have serious concerns about either back tax debt, or a spouse’s inability to contribute, or that they’re just a flight risk 🛫 😆, then you might consider filing separately despite the additional taxes.


Untitled.002.jpeg

You’re probably wondering, “why is the tax picture so different???” Well, the MFS status immediately impacts your ability to claim a number of deductions and credits. It also phases deductions out sooner in other cases.

  • You’ll lose any educational credits or deductions for tuition, etc.

  • Earned income credit will be lost.

  • The child tax credit can be affected.

All of these changes result in a higher overall effective tax rate for the two separate filers than you would have had jointly. 


Untitled.003.jpeg

So does income disparity (one spouse with a high income, one spouse with a lower income) automatically mean you should think about filing separately? Not really! In fact, in most cases, a couple filing jointly with differences in their income, even of a hundred thousand dollars will still come out saving money by filing jointly. It’s rare these days that any marginal deductions the lower-income spouse could pick up will make up for all the lost positive effects of MFJ.

If anything, in our experience, the situations where you’d be more likely to have a lower tax bill MFS is where you have two equal, high-income earners that might just have different deduction profiles. 

But the most common way for an MFS situation to crop up is where one spouse is on a “% of income” student loan repayment plan and the other is a high-income earner. In that case (and particularly where student loan forgiveness is available after 10 years of payment), paying a little more in tax dollars for a while could wind up saving you some significant money.


Untitled.004.jpeg

But just remember: if the student loans won’t be written off for you, paying your student loans isn’t really an expense. It’s a $0 impact on your net worth because you already owe the money. You’re just decreasing your debt while decreasing your cash. That’s a wash. Whereas paying extra taxes that you don’t need to pay—well that’s just a plain old expense. So make sure you’re making the right move for yourself long term.


So, there you have it — the Revel hot take on when it is better to file jointly vs separately. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Tell us what’s on your mind in the comments below!

And as always, if you feel you have a situation that could use some expert outside review, drop us a line and we’ll let you know if we can help!


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