Surviving spouses receive the same standard deduction and tax rates as taxpayers who are filing Married Filing Jointly. In the year of your spouse’s death, if you do not remarry, you can file a joint return with your deceased spouse. For the following two years, you can use the Qualifying Widow/Widower with Dependent Child filing status, if you have a dependent child living with you. After two years, if you have not remarried, you must change your filing status to either Single or Head of Household, depending on your circumstances.

You can consider the Qualifying Widow(er) filing status if you are a widow(er) and:

• You could have filed a joint return with your spouse for the year your spouse died.
• Your spouse died in either of the two tax years preceding this current year. Read More

If you are married and decide not to file a joint return with your spouse, you must file Married Filing Separately.

There is, however, one exception to this rule: A married taxpayer can be considered unmarried by law, if he/she maintains a household for a child, and the spouse was not a member of the household for the last six months of the taxable year. Such a taxpayer would not be required to file MFS, but will be able to file as Head of Household.

Although filing a joint return generally produces lower taxes, the opposite is sometimes the case, and to maximize the tax advantage in such circumstances, married couples may decide to file separately for a particular year. Married taxpayers, therefore, have the Read More

Marital status is decided based on a person’s marital status on December 31. If a couple is married on December 31 of the tax year; that couple may file a joint return for the year, regardless of when in the year they got married. Consequently, you can file Married Filing Jointly if you and your spouse meet any one of the following tests:

• You are married and living together as husband and wife, on the last day of the tax year.
• You are married on the last day of the tax year and living apart, but are not legally separated under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance.
• Your spouse died during the year and you did not remarry during the year.
• You are living together in a common law union that is recognized by the state where you live, or in the state where the common law union began. Read More

Article Highlights:

• When You Are Required to File
• Self-Employed Taxpayers
• Filing Thresholds
• Benefits of Filing Even When Not Required to File
• Refundable Tax Credits

This is a question many taxpayers ask during this time of year, and the question is far more complicated than people believe. To fully understand, we need to consider that there are times when individuals are REQUIRED to file a tax return, and then there are times Read More

If subsequent to filing your tax return, you discover that errors were made, you should file an amended tax return to correct these errors. Naturally, this corrective information will alter your tax calculations. The following are some of the typical errors you can make on your tax return:

• You did not report all of your income. For example, you received a W-2 with additional income, which arrived after you filed your original return.
• You claimed deductions or credits on your original tax return that you were not eligible for, and need to remove them.
• Conversely, you subsequently discovered that you did not claim all the deductions or credits you should have claimed, and need to include them. Read More

If you are a low-to-moderate income worker, you can take steps now to save two ways for the same amount. With the saver’s credit you can save for your retirement and save on your taxes with a special tax credit. Here are five tips you should know about this credit:

1. Save for retirement. The formal name of the saver’s credit is the retirement savings contributions credit. You may be able to claim this tax credit in addition to any other tax savings that also apply. The saver’s credit helps offset part of the first $2,000 you voluntarily save for your retirement. This includes amounts you contribute to IRAs, 401(k) plans and similar workplace plans.

2. Save on taxes. The saver’s credit can increase your refund or reduce the tax you Read More

Help Your Client Help Themselves

If you as a tax professional get the opportunity to advise your client before all the I’s are dotted and T’s crossed at the courthouse, here are some things you can do to help:

1. Based on the desired outcome for child custody, have a Form 8332 already prepared for you clients attorney to present for signature at the time of the court appearance.
2. If there will be a distribution from a qualified retirement account, make sure the QDRO is drawn up in the most tax beneficial manner.
3. If there is to be separate maintenance or support make sure the order is drawn up in the most tax beneficial manner for your client. Read More

Community Property

There are currently nine states that have community property laws. Every state’s specifics are slightly different, some more or less stringent then others. For the most part, from an income tax standpoint, community property laws mean that anything earned or purchased while the “community” or marriage was intact is split 50/50. This is a big issue in the disposition of property and/or business, which we will discuss later. If you are completing a return either in or for someone in a community property state you should research that state’s specific laws.

When preparing a tax return, some states require that a separately filed return have all Read More


Alimony or separate maintenance is a payment ordered by court decree (not an agreement unsanctioned by the court between parties)(Faylor v Comm’r T.C. Memo. 2013-143) made from one party in a divorce proceeding to the other, in order for the receiving party to maintain a standard of living. (§ Cod. Sec. 215)

We see both sides of this situation all the time, so we must be able to determine if the payments are deductible to the payer and if so they are taxable to the payee. There are several conditions that must be met in order for the tax treatment of the payments to be determined: Read More

Child Custody

The second biggest topic in most divorce cases is child custody and dependent exemptions. Effective 1 Jan 2009, new rules kicked in regarding the necessary documentation for claiming the dependent exemption for a child of divorced or separated parents. Before this date a copy of the judicial decree was sufficient, however, due to the varying nature and ambiguous wording of the different jurisdictions, this was determined to be inadequate. (§ Cod. Sec. 152)

The Form 8332 (Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent), or a facsimile with all the same information, is now required to be Read More