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taxes

Tax Filing Status for Newlyweds

The key is whether you were married or single on New Year’s Eve.

I got married in November. Do I file my taxes as married or single, since I was single for most of the year?

As long as your wedding was before midnight on New Year’s Eve, the IRS considers you to be married for the year. Because you were married in November, you must file your 2012 taxes either as married filing jointly or as married filing separately, even though you were single for most of the year. Married filing jointly tends to produce the lowest tax bill for most people -- see Marriage and Taxes for more information about your filing options.

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Because you were married just a few months ago, it’s a good time to check your tax withholding. You can’t change the amount of money withheld for 2012 taxes, but you can make sure the amount withheld from your paycheck for 2013 taxes is close to the amount you actually owe. That way, you might get more money in each paycheck instead of giving the government an interest-free loan. Our tax withholding calculator can show you how changing the allowances you claim on your W-4 will affect your take-home pay. Also see IRS Publication 919 How Do I Adjust My Tax Withholding? for step-by-step instructions for making the change. For more information about adjusting your withholding, see How to Protect Your Paycheck.

Couples facing divorce should keep in mind that your year-end marital status determines how you should file. If your divorce decree becomes final on or before December 31, the IRS considers you to be divorced for the year. You can file a single return, or you can file as head of household if you had a dependent living with you for more than half of the year and you paid for more than half of the upkeep of your home. See Tax Planning for Divorce for more information, especially about the tricky tax rules if you have dependents.

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