Taxes 101: Impact and Risk of Filing a Married Joint Return

How Married Filing Jointly Impacts Your Tax Rate

A person’s filing status determines which standard deduction amount and which schedule of tax rates are used. These are the rates and brackets for the married filing joint status in the 2017 and 2018 tax years.

2017 Tax Rates

Rate Income Bracket

10% $0 to $18,650
15% $18,651 to $75,900
25% $75,901 to $153,100
28% $153,101 to $233,350
33% $233,351 to $416,700
35% $416,701 to $470,700
39.6% $470,701 and above

2018 Tax Rates

Rate Income Bracket

10% $0 to $19,050
12% $19,051 to $77,400
22% $77,401 to $165,000
24% $165,001 to $315,000
32% $315,001 to $400,000
35% $400,001 to $600,000
37% $600,001 and above

Because these are progressive tax rates, a higher percentage doesn’t kick in until your income reaches that threshold, and then only your income over that threshold is taxed at that percentage. For example, if you and your spouse earned $19,051 in 2018, the first $19,050 would be taxed at 10 percent and only that one extra dollar would be taxed at 12 percent.

The Risks of Filing a Joint Married Return

Both spouses must report all their incomes, deductions, and credits on the same return when they file jointly. Both are also full responsible for the accuracy and completeness of that information.
So what happens if there are errors? Each spouse is responsible for providing documentation to prove the accuracy of the tax return if it’s audited by the IRS. And if any tax that’s due and owing is unpaid, each spouse is held personally responsible for the entire payment.
Here’s what the IRS has to say about it:
“Both of you may be held responsible, jointly and individually, for the tax and any interest or penalty due on your joint return. This means that if one spouse does not pay the tax due, the other may have to. Or, if one spouse does not report the correct tax, both spouses may be responsible for any additional taxes assessed by the IRS. One spouse may be held responsible for all the tax due even if all the income was earned by the other spouse.”
The IRS recognizes that not all marriages are perfect unions and will sometimes grant exceptions for joint liability through innocent spouse relief, separation of liability, or equitable relief, depending on the circumstances of the matter.

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