Got Married in 2014? Get Ready for Tax Season

Did you walk down the aisle in 2014? If so, you changed not only your marital status but your tax reporting status as well. To get that anticipated refund in a timely manner, you need to be prepared.

Name Change: The names and Social Security numbers on a tax return need to match Social Security records. Therefore, if the bride changed her name and has not contacted Social Security, either in person or through the HR department where she works, that needs to occur before taxes are filed. You may also want to adjust the amount of taxes withheld from each pay check by filing a new W-4 with your HR department.

Address Change: If the bride, groom or both moved, it may be necessary to notify the IRS using form 8822. This is particularly important if either spouse is marrying for the second time or has dependent children and they filed a return for 2013.

Filing Jointly: Filing a joint tax return usually offers several tax advantages unless both wife and husband have high incomes. If so, be sure to determine which filing status is most advantageous. You will need to decide whether to take the standard deduction ($12,400 for a couple for 2014) or to itemize. If you paid significant medical expenses, made a large number of contributions to charity or had other deductions, it may be beneficial to itemize. If you use tax preparation software, the software will ask you to enter your deductions and will determine for you whether you should itemize.

Injured Spouse Relief: If one spouse owes outstanding back taxes, child support, past due student loans or another financial obligation that could cause a tax refund owed to the innocent spouse to be confiscated, the spouse who does not owe the debt, known as the "injured spouse," can file IRS form 8379 to protect her/his portion of the refund. In most cases, it is better to file jointly and file form 8379 rather than filing as "married filing separately," which is the most expensive way to file.

Preparing your Return: Once you receive all your W-2s and other tax documents, you are ready to file. Much of the tax preparation software available today is fairly easy to use, though it takes time to enter the necessary data. If you can reconcile your bank statement, you can probably use software with few problems. If you are totally uncomfortable preparing your own return, there are accountants and bookkeepers who can help, as well as some free tax preparation clinics. Beware of using the services of a tax preparation service that charges a high fee (they should charge per form filed, not one fee for all filers) or that offers you an instant advance on your refund for a huge interest rate. These are actually loans, similar to payday loans, and subject to numerous regulations.

Filing taxes is a necessary evil we as Americans must do each year. However, the fact that you have to pay taxes indicates you have a job and income, so count your blessings and decide how to invest or spend your refund.


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