ôô

What Is the Marriage Tax Penalty?

Find out who gets a marriage tax penalty or a bonus, and how to save money on taxes as a couple.   

By
Laura Adams, MBA,
February 4, 2014
Episode #344

Page 1 of 2

Marriage Tax PenaltyA Money Girl podcast listener named Jenna asks:

I recently got engaged, and a friend mentioned something about a marriage tax penalty. Can getting married actually cost more than staying single?  

Once you’ve found true love, there are many great reasons to get married. But if you’re like Jenna, you may also wonder whether tying the knot could actually hurt your finances instead of help them.

In this episode, you’ll learn who gets the short end of the financial stick for getting married, how wedded couples can avoid paying too much tax, and 5 financial benefits of getting hitched.  

Sponsor: Thanks to Audible for supporting our channel. Get a free audiobook of your choice at audiblepodcast.com/moneygirl.

Click here to subscribe to the weekly Money Girl audio podcast—it’s FREE!

What Is the Marriage Tax Penalty?

The marriage tax penalty can occur when a couple filing a joint return pays more income tax than they would have if they remained single and filed as individual taxpayers.

The U.S. uses a marginal or progressive tax system where earning more income means you pay higher rates of tax. Combining spouses’ income can result in getting taxed at a higher rate than taxing each person as a single.

For instance, let’s say John and Sue both earn $35,000 in 2013. As singles, each one would owe a little over $4,800 in income tax. If they get married and file income of $70,000 on a joint return, they would owe exactly double, or just over $9,600.

But let’s say they’re high earners making $150,000 each. As singles, each one would owe about $35,000 for 2013. So, getting married seems like it would double their taxes, for a grand total of $70,000.

Guess what? As a married couple earning $300,000, they would owe just over $75,000, which is $5,000 more than what they’d pay as 2 single taxpayers earning $150,000 each.

Since tax rates at higher income brackets for couples are not double that for singles, combining income can result in higher taxes for couples. Take a look at the following tax tables for complete information:

2013 Federal Income Tax Bracket Rates – Married Filing Jointly

Taxable Income

Tax Owed

$0 - $17,850

10% of amount in this bracket

$17,851 - $72,500

$1,785 + 15% of amount over $17,850

$72,501 - $146,400

$9,982.50 + 25% of amount over $72,500

$146,401 - $223,050

$28,457.50 + 28% of amount over $146,400

$223,051 - $398,350

$49,919.50 + 33% of amount over $223,050

$398,351 - $450,000

$107,768.50 + 35% of amount over $398,350

$450,001+

$125,846 + 39.6% of amount over $450,000

 

2013 Federal Income Tax Bracket Rates – Single

Taxable Income

Tax Owed

$0 - $8,925

10% of amount in this bracket

$8,926 - $36,250

$892.50 + 15% of amount over $8,925

$36,251 - $87,850

$4,991.25 + 25% of amount over $36,250

$87,851 - $183,250

$17,891.25 + 28% of amount over $87,850

$183,251 - $398,350

$44,603.25 + 33% of amount over $183,250

$398,351 - $400,000

$115,586.25 + 35% of amount over $398,350

$400,001+

$116,163.75 + 39.6% of amount over $400,000

 

Even for lower tax brackets, when spouses have substantially different incomes, there can still be a marriage penalty, of sorts.

For instance, a stay-at-home spouse or one who only works part-time for a low wage would pay no or little tax if he or she filed as a single taxpayer. But as one half of a married couple, his or her share of the household tax can be much higher.

Pages

Related Tips

You May Also Like...

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest