I don’t live with my spouse. How should we file our taxes?

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Q. If a person is legally married but hasn’t lived in the same house with her spouse for over a year, how does she file taxes?
— Unsure

A. You have options when it comes to filing your tax return.

The Internal Revenue Code permits parties who are separated and/or living separately but are still legally married to file joint income tax returns.

Depending on the specific circumstances surrounding the separation, parties may elect to file “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately,” said Jeralyn Lawrence, a family law attorney with Lawrence Law in Watchung.

She said while electing to file separately may ultimately result in the loss of certain tax benefits available to married people who file jointly, there could still be benefits to filing separately. For example, if there’s a concern that a spouse is underreporting income to the Internal Revenue Service, you might prefer a separate return.

“The decision to file taxes jointly or separately is fact sensitive and must be based on the individual circumstances of each case,” Lawrence said. “We would strongly encourage you to discuss any questions that you may have with an attorney or tax professional to discern the best course of action in your case.”

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This story was originally published on May 5, 2020.

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