Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Married Filing Separately


Married Filing Separately is a tax filing status for legally married couples who choose to record their respective incomes, exemptions, and deductions on separate tax returns. This method might limit their access to certain tax benefits, but can be advantageous if one partner has large out-of-pocket medical expenses or considerable miscellaneous itemized deductions. It also ensures each spouse is separately liable for any tax, penalties, or interest arising from their own individual return.


The phonetics of “Married Filing Separately” are: ‘Married’ – /ˈmærid/’Filing’ – /ˈfaɪlɪŋ/’Separately’ – /ˈsɛp(ə)rətli/

Key Takeaways

<ol> <li>Potential Higher Tax – With Married Filing Separately status, both spouses may be subject to higher taxes. Several tax benefits are reduced or removed entirely when you file separately.</li> <li>Limited Benefits – When spouses choose to file separately, they may lose access to certain tax benefits like the Child and Dependent Care tax credit, the Adoption credit, Earned Income tax credit, and some education-related deductions and credits.</li> <li>Possible Protection from Incorrect Tax Filing – In cases of any discrepancies or fraudulent activities related to the tax filing of one spouse, the other spouse is generally not held liable when they are Married Filing Separately.</li></ol>


Married Filing Separately is an important business/finance term as it refers to one of the tax filing statuses married couples can select when filing their taxes. This option allows each spouse to file their taxes individually, often resulting in each person being responsible for their own tax liability. Choosing this option can potentially lead to higher individual tax rates, but it can be advantageous in certain circumstances. For example, if one partner has significantly lower income or high-deductible expenses, or if there are concerns about potential tax liability issues if a joint return were filed. Hence, understanding this term is crucial for financial planning and making informed decisions about tax liabilities.


Married Filing Separately is a tax filing status that married couples may opt for on their tax return, and it serves a specific purpose. When a couple selects to file their taxes separately, they essentially segment their incomes, deductions, and credits. While ordinarily, many couples would benefit more from a joint filing due to the accommodative tax brackets and potential for certain tax credits, the preference to file separately could be precipitated by a variety of factors. The separated filing could be an instrument to shield one spouse from the other’s potential tax liabilities or, in some cases, to facilitate the handling of complex investment or business activities. If one spouse has a significant itemized deduction, for instance, filing separately could allow this spouse to take advantage by deducing it from their tax return. Separated filing could also be a strategy for those residing in community property states, or it could help with separating IRS information in case of anticipated divorce proceedings. Therefore, although it might not be the optimal choice for everyone, the Married Filing Separately status can provide significant benefits for couples in specific situations.


Example 1: High Net Worth CouplesA high net worth couple, Sam and Kate, decide to file their taxes separately due to their differing investment income. They individually manage their portfolios, with Sam focusing on high-risk, high-yield investments and Kate opting for low-risk bonds. By filing separately, they can handle their tax liabilities individually, especially when it comes to capital gains taxes.Example 2: Student Loan Repayment Plans Consider the scenario of a married couple, Sarah and Tom. Sarah is still paying off her graduate school loans, which are set up on an income-based repayment plan. If they were to file jointly, the income-based repayment would calculate based on their combined incomes, increasing Sarah’s monthly loan payments. To avoid this, they choose to file their taxes separately, so only Sarah’s income is considered for her loan repayment.Example 3: Significant Medical ExpensesA couple, Emma and Peter, have hefty medical expenses due to Emma’s ongoing treatment for a chronic illness. The tax code allows medical costs that exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income to be deducted. By filing separately, Emma can claim this deduction based on just her own income, which is significantly lower than their joint income. Therefore, they will end-up with a major tax saving.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What does Married Filing Separately (MFS) mean?

Married Filing Separately is an income tax filing status applicable to married individuals who choose to record their incomes, exemptions, and deductions on separate tax returns.

Who should consider using the Married Filing Separately status?

While most couples benefit from filing jointly, married individuals might choose to file separately if they want to be held responsible for their tax bill or if it results in less tax owed than filing jointly.

What are possible tax impacts when choosing Married Filing Separately?

In many cases, the Married Filing Separately status may result in paying more taxes than if you were to file jointly. It can also limit one’s ability to claim certain tax benefits, like child and dependent care credits, earned income credit, education credits, etc.

Can I opt for Married Filing Separately if I live together with my spouse?

Yes, you can. The IRS stipulates that married individuals can choose the MFS status regardless of whether they live together or separately.

What is the benefit of using Married Filing Separately?

The main benefit for Married Filing Separately is limiting tax liability. If your spouse is dealing with tax troubles or is hesitant about mixing tax liabilities, MFS allows you to take sole responsibility for your own tax.

Can both spouses use either standard deductions or itemized deductions under Married Filing Separately?

No. When a married couple files their tax returns separately, they must both use the standard deduction or both use itemized deductions. If one spouse itemizes deductions, the other must do the same.

Can I switch from a different filing status to Married Filing Separately in the middle of the tax year?

For any given tax year, you can change your filing status from joint to separate, but not in the middle of the tax year. The status your marriage qualifies for on the last day of the year is your status for the entire year.

How does Married Filing Separately work with state taxes?

The rules for state tax filing are different from those for federal taxes and vary from state to state. It’s always a good idea to consult with a tax advisor or your state tax department to understand your options.

Related Finance Terms

Sources for More Information

About Our Editorial Process

At Due, we are dedicated to providing simple money and retirement advice that can make a big impact in your life. Our team closely follows market shifts and deeply understands how to build REAL wealth. All of our articles undergo thorough editing and review by financial experts, ensuring you get reliable and credible money advice.

We partner with leading publications, such as Nasdaq, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, and more, to provide insights on retirement, current markets, and more.

We also host a financial glossary of over 7000 money/investing terms to help you learn more about how to take control of your finances.

View our editorial process

About Our Journalists

Our journalists are not just trusted, certified financial advisers. They are experienced and leading influencers in the financial realm, trusted by millions to provide advice about money. We handpick the best of the best, so you get advice from real experts. Our goal is to educate and inform, NOT to be a ‘stock-picker’ or ‘market-caller.’ 

Why listen to what we have to say?

While Due does not know how to predict the market in the short-term, our team of experts DOES know how you can make smart financial decisions to plan for retirement in the long-term.

View our expert review board

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More