Here's What Happens to Your Tax Refund When You Get Married

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  • In some cases, being married could result in a higher tax refund.
  • But you could end up paying a higher rate of tax on your income after getting married.

There are plenty of financial benefits to getting married. For one thing, if you're self-employed, you may be able to get onto a spouse's health insurance plan once you tie the knot, thereby saving yourself money.

But while getting married might make your taxes less burdensome, the opposite might also happen. And so depending on your situation, you might end up with a larger tax refund once you get married -- or a smaller one.

How getting married might affect your taxes

The U.S. tax system is a marginal one, which means a higher rate of tax is imposed on your highest dollars of earnings. This is also known as your tax bracket.

Your tax bracket hinges on your tax-filing status and your income. If you're single and earn $40,000, you fall into the 12% tax bracket. That doesn't mean your entire $40,000 salary will be taxed at 12% -- just your highest dollars of income. Once you get married, though, your tax bracket might change as your filing status shifts to married filing jointly.

So let's say you get married and your spouse makes $60,000 a year. Suddenly, your joint income is $100,000, putting you in the 22% tax bracket. That higher tax bracket could result in a smaller refund, because collectively, you're paying a higher rate of tax on your highest dollars of earnings.

In some cases, you won't be negatively impacted by getting married in terms of your tax bracket. If you earn $40,000 a year and your spouse earns $40,000 a year, the tax bracket you'd fall into as married filing jointly is 12%. That's the same as you'd land in if you were each filing as single. So it's really just a matter of how the numbers work out specifically for you.

Getting married might lead to more tax deductions

In some cases, you might end up being able to claim more deductions on your taxes by virtue of being married. Let's say you can't afford to buy a home alone, but with your spouse's income, you can swing a place to own. In that case, you may be able to deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage on your taxes, provided you itemize and don't claim the standard deduction. And the more deductions you're able to claim, the higher your tax refund stands to be.

Also, some people can't afford to take on the expense of a child (not to mention the work of raising one) until they're partnered up. But as a parent, there are a number of tax deductions you can claim that reduce your taxable income, thereby setting the stage for a higher refund.

All told, it's hard to know what will happen to your tax refund once you tie the knot, as it'll hinge on your specific financial situation. But a good bet is to sit down with an accountant once you get married so they can help you and your spouse come up with strategies to keep your IRS burden to a minimum. That could, in turn, set the stage for higher refunds and a lot more money in your pocket.

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