Married but Filing Single Taxes: Is it Possible?

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When it comes to filing taxes, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers five different statuses: Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household, and Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child. The status you choose can significantly impact the amount of taxes you owe or the refund you receive.

Married but Filing Single Taxes: Is it Possible?

For example, in 2023, the standard deduction for a single filer is $12,950, while for married filing jointly, it’s $25,900. This means if you’re married and choose to file separately, your standard deduction is effectively halved.

Why Some Couples May Consider Filing Taxes Separately

There are instances where couples may consider filing their taxes separately. For instance, if one spouse has significant medical expenses or deductions that exceed the standard deduction limit for joint returns, filing separately could be beneficial.

Consider the case of John and Jane Doe. John has a high income but minimal deductions, while Jane has a lower income but significant medical expenses. By filing separately, Jane can itemize her deductions and potentially lower their overall tax liability.

Similarly, couples with significantly different incomes may find it more financially advantageous to file their taxes separately. This is especially true if one spouse has a large amount of student loan debt or owes back taxes.

Potential Downsides of Separate Filings

However, it’s crucial to understand that filing separately comes with its own set of challenges. When you choose to file separately, you give up many credits and deductions only available to those who file jointly.

For example:

  • If you have children and want to claim Child Tax Credits (CTCs), Earned Income Credit (EICs), or American Opportunity Tax Credits(AOTCs), these are unavailable if you opt for separate filings.
  • You will lose out on education-related tax benefits like Student Loan Interest Deductions.
  • The capital loss limits for singles become halved compared to those available with joint filings.

An Important Reminder

It’s essential to remember that filing as “single” while being technically married is considered tax fraud by the IRS. If they discover this, a taxpayer could face serious consequences, including penalties or even criminal charges in some cases.

The Impact on Social Security Benefits

Another aspect to consider when deciding your filing status is the impact on Social Security benefits. Joint filers have higher thresholds than respective single filers. For instance, if you’re married and file jointly, you can earn up to $32,000 in combined income without having to pay taxes on your Social Security benefits. However, if you’re married and file separately, you may have to pay taxes on your benefits if you earn more than $25,000.

Consider the case of a retired couple, Bob and Alice, who both receive Social Security benefits. If they file jointly, they can keep more of their benefits tax-free compared to if they filed separately.

State Tax Considerations

It’s also important to remember that states often follow federal rules regarding taxes. Therefore, you should check which option is best suited based on individual state guidelines. For instance, in community property states like California and Texas, income and deductions are usually split equally between spouses when they file separately. This could potentially negate any tax benefits gained from filing separately at the federal level.

Making an Informed Decision

While it’s possible for married individuals to file taxes separately as singles, there are many factors and potential downsides to consider before making such a decision. Losing out on various credits and deductions can easily offset potential gains from filing taxes separately. Therefore, it’s crucial to consult with a tax professional or use an online tax software that can help you compare the outcomes of different filing statuses.

By understanding your options based on your unique financial situation and considering both short-term and long-term implications of different filing statuses, you can make an informed choice that is beneficial to you financially.


Filing taxes can be a complex process, especially when you’re married and considering filing as single. It’s crucial to understand the implications of this choice and make an informed decision based on your unique financial situation. While there may be some benefits to filing separately, they often come with trade-offs, such as losing out on certain tax credits and deductions. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to consult with a tax professional or use an online tax software to help you make the best decision.

Remember, the goal is not just to minimize your tax liability for the current year but also to optimize your overall financial situation in the long run. So, take the time to understand your options, seek professional advice if needed, and make the choice that best suits your financial goals and circumstances.