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When filing federal income taxes, everyone must select a filing status. The five filing statuses are single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, and qualifying widow/er with dependent child. Most people are only qualified for one or two of the statuses, and your status is bound to change at some point in your life. One common transition is filing from single to married.

In this post, we will look at how your tax situation may alter if your filing status changes from single to married.

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
37%$578,125+$628,300+$693,750+$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
37%$609,350+$731,200+$365,600+$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).

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.

When Will I Get My Tax Refund?

Filing taxes isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time, but a tax refund is a light at the end of the tunnel. Considering the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) refunded $172 billion in income tax in 2023, plenty of filers get a sizable return.

Read Also: How do I Get Around Crypto Tax?

How long does it take to receive your tax refund? What’s the average tax refund amount? And do certain characteristics, such as income or marital status, influence tax refund amounts?

Nine out of 10 tax refunds are issued within 21 days, according to the IRS.

Twenty-four hours after filing your refund online, you can access the IRS Where’s My Refund tool to get daily updates on your tax refund status. Paper filers have to wait six months or more before the tool becomes available.

The tool shows progress in three phases:

  1. Return received
  2. Refund approved
  3. Refund sent

Once your refund is approved, you will be given a date to expect your refund on by the IRS. Those who file their tax return online and sign up for direct deposit get their tax refund fastest, per the IRS.

Most states estimate that state tax refunds are issued within 10 weeks of processing.

While it’s not possible to predict how the average refund will change in the 2023 filing year, we asked experts at major tax service providers about how to maximize tax refunds and what changes to watch out for.

Inflation could lead to larger tax returns for some filers due to expanded income tax brackets and larger tax credit amounts, tax experts told The Motley Fool Ascent.

“Refunds should remain stable for most taxpayers with a possible bump due to larger inflation adjustments than last year,” says Kathy Pickering, chief tax officer at H&R Block. “Many of the items that affect taxpayers’ returns such as tax brackets, credit amounts, and income limitations, fluctuate each year based on certain economic indicators. With the increase in inflation we’ve faced in the last year, many of these items will be larger than normal, resulting in a slight bump in refunds.”

“With inflation adjustments like the standard deduction and income brackets increasing the most they have in decades, about 7%, this could help filers tax outcomes in the upcoming season,” Lisa Greene-Lewis, CPA and tax expert at TurboTax told The Motley Fool Ascent.

These are some other tips for maximizing your tax return.

1. Take advantage of credits and deductions

Changes to tax credits aren’t the only thing filers should be mindful of this coming tax season — they should also be cognizant of their own life changes, including changes to income and family size.

Greene-Lewis flagged the following tax credits as one’s filers often times miss:

  • The Earned Income Tax Credit: a tax credit certain filers may qualify for if they earned less than $59,187 in the 2023 tax filing year.
  • The Saver’s Credit: a tax credit for low- and moderate-income filers that contribute to a retirement account.
  • The Child and Dependent Care Credit: a tax credit for filers that support a child under the age of 13 or a dependent (including those outside their family) who cannot take care of themselves and lived with the filer for more than half of the year.

According to Greene-Lewis, 1 out of 5 filers miss the Earned Income Tax Credit, which maxes out at $7,430, and others may not realize they’re eligible for the dependent part of the Child and Dependent Care Credit or the Saver’s Credit.

2. Organize W-2s and other paperwork

To maximize tax refunds and avoid delays or letters from the IRS, filers should make sure they have all their paperwork in order, including their W-2s and 1099s.

“One of the most common mistakes is reporting the wrong taxable income,” Pickering says. To avoid this, compare the W-2 or 1099 you receive against your own records. If you think it is wrong, inform the sender and ask them to file a corrected W-2 or 1099 with the IRS.”

Mark Steber, chief tax information officer at Jackson Hewitt, adds, “Personal situations can change annually, but if someone isn’t organized these changes can go overlooked. I always recommend people organize, and stay organized throughout the year. Organize tax-related documents into four categories: income items, deductions, life changes, and others.”

3. Double-check information entered into tax software

Many tax filing services transpose information from tax forms to calculate your return, but you should still double-check to make sure that the information received by the service matches what’s on your forms.

“One of the most common mistakes is not taking a moment to review the information you entered,” Mark Jaeger, vice president of tax development at TaxAct says.

Missing information or entering it incorrectly either through being rushed or disorganized can mean leaving benefits on the table. In that instance, the IRS won’t catch your mistake. “It is simply a mistaken concept that if you leave off a benefit the IRS will ‘find it and add it back and send you more money.’ Nothing could be farther from the truth,” says Steber.

Steber points out that there’s a growing trend of taxpayers making small but costly mistakes on their filings. “These mistakes have resulted in thousands of taxpayers seeing a delay in receiving their tax refund because their return is sent to the IRS’ error resolution system,” he says.

4. Make a plan to file a tax return

The biggest misstep? Not filing a tax return at all, says Lisa Greene-Lewis, CPA and tax expert at TurboTax.

Individuals who earn below the IRS income tax filing threshold ($13,850 for a single filer and $27,700 for a married couple filing jointly) are likely “leaving money on the table,” says Greene-Lewis, who pointed out that those earners may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

“The IRS reports over $1 billion in unclaimed refunds that belong to filers who don’t file and the average unclaimed refund is over $800,” Greene-Lewis told The Motley Fool Ascent.

What to Expect From Your Tax Refund in 2024

Changes are coming for the 2023 tax filing year that could impact the size of tax refunds in 2024. These are the ones that are most likely to affect your potential tax refund.

New income tax brackets

The IRS widened income tax brackets for the 2023 filing year due to inflation.

2023 tax-filing year income tax brackets

Tax RateTaxable income, singleTaxable income, married filing jointlyTaxable income, head of household
10%Up to $11,000Up to $22,000Up to $15,700
12%$11,001 to $44,725$22,001 to $89,450$15,701 to $59,850
22%$44,726 to $95,375$89,451 to $190,750$59,851 to $95,350
24%$95,376 to $182,100$190,751 to $364,200$95,351 to $182,100
32%$182,101 to $231,250$364,201 to $462,500$182,101 to $231,250
35%$231,251 to $578,125$462,501 to $693,750$231,251 to $578,100
37%Over $578,125Over $693,750Over $578,100

Data source: Internal Revenue Service (2023).

As a result, filers whose salaries haven’t kept pace with inflation may find themselves in a lower income tax bracket than last year.

Higher standard deduction

The IRS increased standard deduction amounts for the 2023 filing year as a result of inflation.

2023 tax filing year standard deductions

Filing status2023 standard deduction
Single$13,850
Married, filing separately$13,850
Married, filing jointly; qualified widow/er$27,700
Head of household$20,800

Data source: Internal Revenue Service (2023).

The standard deduction is the amount you can reduce your standard gross income by, which lowers your taxable income. Most filers take the standard deduction rather than an itemized deduction.

A higher standard deduction may help filers fall into a lower income tax bracket, particularly if inflation has outpaced their salary.

1099-K thresholds

The 1099-K form is used to report payments via payment cards and third-party networks, like Venmo, PayPal, and Cash App, for goods and services provided in either business or personal transactions. The threshold for filing a 1099-K in the 2023 tax filing year will remain at $20,000 and 200 transactions. The IRS had previously announced a lower threshold but reverted to the current one. For the 2024 tax year, the 1099-K threshold will be reduced to $5,000.

The 1099-K covers side hustles, like selling crafts on Etsy, earnings from sales on a website like eBay, and ticket resales through platforms like StubHub. Transactions with friends and family are not covered by the 1099-K.

Energy efficiency, clean energy, and electric vehicle tax credits

Tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act for solar energy installations, home energy efficiency improvements, and electric vehicles (EVs) kick in for the 2023 filing year.

  • The solar energy tax credit is now 30% for installations of solar panels and other solar-powered energy efficiency home improvements.
  • The energy efficiency home improvement tax credit is now up to 30% of the cost of qualifying home energy efficiency improvements made in the 2023 tax year. The maximum claim is $1,200 for home improvements and $2,000 for qualifying heat pumps and biomass heating solutions. The lifetime dollar limit has been removed.
  • Qualifying electric vehicles (EVs) purchased after Jan. 1, 2023, are eligible for a tax credit of up to $7,500.

Final Words

“Couples with significant earning differences between the spouses typically reap the greatest savings,” said President of Coastal Wealth’s Private Client Group in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Chad Tourin, a financial professional, attorney, and accountant.

That’s because both spouses’ incomes are combined in determining their tax bracket. “Thus, if one spouse earns considerably less than the other, they may be pulled down into a lower tax bracket and in turn reduce their overall tax liability,” said Tourin.

To illustrate: A single individual earning $200,000 a year would be subject to the 32 percent marginal tax rate in 2023 and 2024, but drop to the 24 percent tax rate as a married taxpayer filing jointly if their spouse did not produce an income, or if their combined household income remained below the 24 percent tax bracket cut-off: $364,201850 threshold for tax year 2023 or $383,900 for tax year 2024.1,2

Beyond the lower tax bracket, which alone can yield significant savings, married couples may also benefit from the following tax savings opportunities:

  • Combined federal gift and estate tax limit
  • Estate tax advantage
  • Higher standard deduction
  • Spousal IRA contributions
  • FSA contributions
  • Personal residence exemption
  • Earned Income Tax Credit

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