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Joint or separate tax filing for married parties

Pennsylvania residents who are not married but are involved in civil unions or domestic partnerships do not have the option of filing jointly on their federal income tax returns. However, married individuals, including those in same-sex marriages, must select either joint or married filing separately as their status. In many cases, separate filings can result in the loss of certain tax benefits, but in other cases, separate filing is the better choice.

Couples may want to file separately if the incomes of the parties vary greatly as this might allow the spouse with a lower income to make use of deductions for medical expenses. If one partner uses tax strategies that could be considered questionable or even illegal, the other partner might prefer to use a married filing separately status to avoid the legal and financial implications in case of an investigation. A divorcing couple is still considered married for tax purposes if the divorce did not finalize before the last day of the taxable year. Although the divorce may have concluded prior to the point at which the return is to be filed, the tax status is still married.

A separate tax filing before a divorce concludes might be advisable to aid in separating financial matters as issues such as property division occur. This may allow for spouses to identify debt responsibilities, separate assets, and marital assets for both divorce and tax purposes. If the divorce is contentious and the details become difficult to finalize, a couple might seek an extension on their tax filing deadline.

Property division in a high net worth divorce could be governed by a prenuptial agreement, which might simplify the finalization of financial matters related to the action. However, challenges to the agreement could delay a conclusion to the matter, especially if the situation involves extensive litigation.

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