An updated marriage bonus and penalty calculator

A healthy marriage might be swell most of the year, but from a financial perspective, it might make more sense to stay single at tax time. Tax Vox rolled out a new calculator to help decide whether couples should file taxes jointly or as individuals.

Susan Walsh/AP/File
This March 22, 2013, file photo shows the exterior of the Internal Revenue Service building in Washington. Married American taxpayers have a little extra homework at tax time, as they have to determine if they'll owe more to the government as a couple or as individuals.

Just in time for this year’s tax filing season (but a bit late for St. Valentine’s Day), the Tax Policy Center has updated its marriage bonus and penalty calculator. The new version lets you compare a couple’s income tax liability when they file as singles or as married for either the 2013 or 2014 tax year.

Some couples may pay a marriage penalty—a higher federal income tax bill than they would if they were single. But for most couples, marriage means a lower tax bill—a marriage bonus in tax-speak.

My August 21, 2012, TaxVox post about TPC’s original marriage bonus and penalty calculator explained why the tax code rewards some married couples and penalizes others. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) increased marriage penalties a lot for many high-income couples for their 2013 returns but there are no big changes in store for tax year 2014.

The calculator makes it easy to determine the tax consequences of marriage in 2013 or 2014. Just don’t use it to decide whether or not to marry—there’s more to life than taxes.

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