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Taxes: Single vs. Married

SmartAsset: Single vs. Married Tax Filers

When filing federal income taxes, everyone has to choose a filing status. There are five filing statuses: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household and qualifying widow/er with dependent child. Most people are only eligible for one or two of the statuses and your status is likely to change at some point in your life. One common change is going from filing single to filing married. In this article, let’s look at how your tax situation could change when your filing status changes from single to married.

Planning your family’s finances goes beyond just taxes. Find a local financial advisor today.

Single vs. Married: The Filing Options

Before talking about how your taxes will change, let’s consider the IRS definitions for when you can use the single vs. married filing statuses. To use the single filing status, you need to be unmarried, legally separated and/or divorced on the last day of the tax year (December 31). To qualify as married in the eyes of the IRS you need to get legally married on or before the last day of the tax year.

If you can legally file as married, then you must. Married individuals cannot file as single or as the head of a household. Keep in mind the requirements are the same for same-sex marriages. If you were legally married by a state or foreign government, the IRS will expect you to file as married.

After marriage, you have two choices for filing your taxes. Married filing separately will allow you and your spouse to file separate returns. This works very similarly to filing single. Married filing jointly should be your status choice if you want to file both your and your spouse’s incomes on one return. Filing only one return could save you time and money. Choosing one status over the other will result in different limits for tax brackets, deductions and credits.

How the Filing Process Changes From Single to Married

The clearest example of how your taxes will change after marriage is in the income tax brackets. The tables below show the tax brackets for the 2023 tax year (what you file in 2024) and the 2024 tax year (what you file in 2025). You’ll notice that if you choose to file a joint return, the minimum and maximum incomes will change for each tax bracket.

In some cases, married couples will find themselves in a lower tax bracket now that they are combining incomes. At the same time, married individuals who file separately will pay income taxes according to the same brackets as single filers.

Federal Income Tax Brackets for 2023 (filed by April 15, 2024)

SingleMarried Filing JointlyMarried Filing SeparatelyHead of Household
10%$0 – $11,000$0 – $19,900$0 – $22,000$0 -$15,700
12%$11,000 – $44,725$19,901 – $81,050$22,001 – $89,450$15,701 -$59,850
22%$44,726 – $95,375$81,051 – $172,750$89,451 – $190,750$59,851 -$95,350
24%$95,376 – $182,100$172,751 – $329,850$190,751 – $364,200$95,351 – $182,100
32%$182,101 –  $231,250$329,851 – $418,850$364,201 –  $462,500$182,101 – $231,250
35%$231,251 – $578,125$418,851 – $628,300$462,501 – $693,750$231,251 – $578,100

Federal Income Tax Brackets for 2024 (filed by April 15, 2025)

RateSingleMarried Filing JointlyMarried Filing SeparatelyHead of Household
10%$0 – $11,600$0 – $23,200$0 – $11,600$0 – $16,550
12%$11,600 – $47,150$23,200 – $94,300$11,600 – $47,150$16,550 – $63,100
22%$47,150 – $100,525$94,300 – $201,050$47,150 – $100,525$63,100 – $100,500
24%$100,525 – $191,950$201,050 – $383,900$100,525 – $191,950$100,500 – $191,950
32%$191,950 – $243,725$383,900 – $487,450$191,950 – $243,725$191,950 – $243,700
35%$243,725 – $609,350$487,450 – $731,200$231,251 – $365,600$243,700 – $609,350

Outside of income taxes, filing a joint return will change limits for other deductions. For example, the standard deduction for the 2023 tax year is $13,850 ($14,600 in 2024)  for single filers. The deduction for taxpayers who are married and file jointly for the 2023 tax year is $27,700 ($29,200 in 2024). In this case, the deduction is doubled for joint filers. That isn’t always the case though. As another example, single filers can deduct up to $3,000 of capital gains losses from income. A married couple filing jointly can only deduct $3,000 total (not $3,000 each).

Check Your Withholding Information

SmartAsset: Single vs. Married Tax Filers

One big change that comes with marriage is how you report withholdings. Normally, you fill out your W-4 to reflect how many total exemptions you can take. After marriage, you and your spouse need to distribute your exemptions across both your W-4 forms. So if you and your spouse each qualify for two exemptions (four total), the number of exemptions on your W-4 forms should add up to four. You cannot each take four exemptions. If you claim more exemptions than you should, your employers will not withhold enough paycheck taxes and you will owe money when you file your tax return.

Bottom Line

SmartAsset: Single vs. Married Tax Filers

If you get married on or before the last day of the tax year (December 31), your filing status for that year is married. However, you still need to decide between the statuses of married filing jointly and married filing separately. Filing jointly will result in one tax return. That makes filing simpler (and usually cheaper) but it won’t allow all couples to maximize tax benefits.

Tips for Maximizing Your Tax Savings

  • Filing taxes no longer has to be stressful thanks to a number of user-friendly tax services. They can also help you find deductions or exemptions that you might have missed. We broke down the two most popular tax filing services, H&R Block and TurboTax.
  • Consult a financial advisor if you’re unsure how you should file or how your taxes will changed by filing jointly or separately. A financial advisor can also help you plan your finances now that you and your spouse will be sharing certain expenses. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Once you file your taxes, you may learn that you have a big tax refund coming your way. Here’s a refund schedule we’ve created to give you an idea when you can expect your money.

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