How will marriage affect your taxes?

You may have heard of the so-called “marriage penalty,” where you pay more tax as a married couple than if you’d each remained single. But only some people are affected—and some couples may even pay less tax. Here’s how the rules break down for a few sample couples.

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Couple 1—One higher income, one lower income

If they filed as unmarried individuals:

Husband’s taxable income: $100,000

28% tax bracket

Taxes: $21,071

Wife’s taxable income: $20,000

15% tax bracket

Taxes: $2,539

Their combined taxes owed would be:

$23,610

If they were filing jointly as a married couple:

Combined taxable income: $120,000

25% tax bracket

Couple’s taxes: $21,588

Marriage benefit: $2,022

Couple 2—Equivalent income

If they filed as unmarried individuals:

Husband 1’s taxable income: $50,000

25% tax bracket

Taxes: $8,294

Husband 2’s taxable income: $50,000

25% tax bracket

Taxes: $8,294

Their combined taxes owed would be:

$16,588

If they were filing jointly as a married couple:

Combined taxable income: $100,000

25% tax bracket

Couple’s taxes: $16,588

Marriage has no effect

Couple 3—High, equivalent income

If they filed as unmarried individuals:

Husband’s taxable income: $100,000

28% tax bracket

Taxes: $21,071

Wife’s taxable income: $100,000

28% tax bracket

Taxes: $21,071

Their combined taxes owed would be:

$42,142

If they were filing jointly as a married couple:

Combined taxable income: $200,000

28% tax bracket

Couple’s taxes: $43,052

Marriage penalty: $910

Breaking down the math ...

The amount you pay in taxes depends on what bracket your taxable income falls into. However, each bracket of your income is taxed at a different rate, so if you fall into the 28% bracket, for example, your effective tax rate will likely be lower. For more information, and to see how we calculated taxes owed in our examples, check out our tax bracket explainer. Below, we’ve outlined how brackets differ between single filers and those who are married, filing jointly.

Tax Rate

10%

15%

25%

28%

33%

35%

39.6%

Single Filers

< $9,225  

$9,226 to $37,450

$37,451 to $90,750

$90,751 to $189,300

$189,301 to $411,500

$411,501 to $413,200

$413,201 or more

Married Joint Filers

< $18,450

$18,451 to $74,900

$74,901 to $151,200

$151,201 to $230,450

$230,451 to $411,500

$411,501 to $464,850

$464,851 or more

One last thing

Even if the marriage penalty doesn’t apply to you, marriage can still affect your taxes. If you’ve recently tied the knot, you may want to start by checking the IRS’s withholding calculator to see if you need to adjust the income withheld from your paychecks. When it comes time to prepare your tax return, keep in mind that the deductions and credits you’re eligible for may have changed.

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The material provided on this website is for informational use only and is not intended for financial or investment advice. Bank of America and/or its affiliates, and Khan Academy, assume no liability for any loss or damage resulting from one’s reliance on the material provided. Please also note that such material is not updated regularly and that some of the information may not therefore be current. Consult with your own financial professional when making decisions regarding your financial or investment options.

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