4 Helpful Hints when Filing a Joint Tax Return

Many married couples choose to file a joint tax return. There are great advantages to doing this. If you choose to file as married filing single, you lose out on many itemized deductions, and you will pay much more in federal and state taxes. Before filing your joint return, follow these simple tips to ensure the largest refund and accurate return.

1.Gather All Documents

Discuss with each other what pertinent documents each person needs to produce for his or her taxes. Remember 1099's and w-2's from all jobs. Also gather mortgage and student loan interest documents, investment documents and any receipts you may have. You must also know one another's personal information like a birth date and Social Security number.

2. Know Your Deductions

If you are newly married or have been married for years, there are deductions you can claim. These may vary year to year since your personal situation may change. Buying a home, having a baby, starting a business, changing jobs and investing can all create deductions on your return. You can claim the interest on your mortgage and the costs of property taxes. You can write off student loan interest. There are many credits for children. Be aware of what is available to you and know how your life has changed since the previous year's return. If you are using a tax preparer, he or she will need this information. If you use tax software yourself, you will be asked these important questions.

3. Work Together

Prepare your taxes together. Whether you do them yourself or visit a tax preparer, be together and discuss your finances together. This is a great opportunity to understand where you are as a couple financially and to both be knowledgeable about your finances. Also, it is good for you both to be responsible for the return, so one partner isn't blamed for a poorly prepared return.

4. Prepare for Next Year

Tax time can be so simple if you have prepared all year long. Now that you have done your taxes and know what deductions are available to you, you should know what supporting documents you will need. If you own your own business and claim a home office deduction, you know that you need to keep copies of utility statements, phone bills and mortgage payments. Others may need credit card bills or bank statements. If all year long, you keep a file in which you organize receipts, bills and cancelled checks, then on January 1st, you can pull out all documents relating to your tax return. There will less stress between you and your partner and less fighting about who was responsible for certain documents. Tax preparing will be simple, and in case of an audit, you will already have everything you will need to support your return.

Can a joint tax return be amended to filing separately?

Yes, your joint tax filing can be amended; this just isn't a preferred practice. Once your return is filed, it can be quite difficult to stop the wheels from turning. If you find, after filing, that you have made some material error, you should make every effort to correct it. To change your filing status, visit IRS.gov/amend status or call your local office. Be sure to have all the documentation ready to prove the need for the change. You should also be prepared to pay more than you owe to avoid any penalties or interest until the changes are made.

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