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Divorce can raise issues of whether to file joint tax return

The Internal Revenue Code gives married couples the option of filing income taxes jointly or separately. The date of divorce issued by the Florida court will have something to do with whether former spouses can file jointly or separately for a given tax year. If still married on the last day of the tax year, usually Dec. 31, the former spouses can file their return jointly.

When in the process of divorce at the beginning of 2016, couples can still file as married for the tax year 2015, if as stated, they were still married on Dec. 31, 2015. This may offer advantages over filing separately for 2015. In general, there are several financial advantages that a person can get by filing a joint return.

One big problem for divorcing couples of modest income is that they may lose the right to take the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Elderly or Disabled Credit, or educational credits (American Opportunity Credit or Lifetime Learning Credit) if they file a separate as opposed to a joint return. Filing separately also generally gives one a higher tax rate than in a joint filing. In general, social security benefits can be taxed higher than with a joint filing even if one spouse receives no benefits.

One reason to file separately is to avoid signing onto something where the former spouse is doing something illegal or deceptive. The uninvolved spouse may pay the full penalty for the guilty person if he or she signs a joint account where the other spouse has inserted illegal information or otherwise cheated. Because there may be benefits provided under federal and Florida law for filing separately when one is in a divorce and in the process of dividing marital finances, it is best to seek the advice of a certified public accountant or a divorce attorney prior to deciding how to file.

Source:, "Should couples file taxes jointly or separately?", Mar. 11, 2016

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The Law Office of Gustavo E. Frances, P.A.
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