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A married couple may file a joint tax return and be treated as one taxpayer, so that taxes are paid on the couple’s total taxable income. While a married couple may file separate returns, this usually results in higher taxes than filing jointly. The so-called “marriage penalty” results when the combined tax liability of a married couple filing jointly is greater than the sum of their tax liabilities calculated as though they were two unmarried filers.

Beginning with the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA 2001), various tax bills took steps to alleviate the marriage penalty through 2012. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 finally made the following marriage penalty relief provisions permanent.

Marriage Penalty Relief – Standard Deduction Increase

The following standard deduction schedule applies to a married couple filing jointly:

Calendar Year 2013 and later:

  • Joint Return Standard Deduction as a % of Single Return Standard Deduction - 200%
  • (in 2014, $12,400 married/$6,200 single)

Marriage Penalty Relief – Expansion of 15% Tax Bracket

The following schedule applies to the size of the 15% tax bracket for joint filers as a percentage of the 15% tax bracket for singles:

Calendar Year 2013 and later:

  • Top of 15% Joint Bracket as a % of Top of 15% Single Bracket – 200%
  • (in 2014, $73,800 married/$36,900 single)

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