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The Short Answer

When 'Married Filing Separately' Makes Sense

For most, filing jointly is the best option, but in rare instances filing apart from your spouse could lower your tax bill.

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Question: Every year when I do my taxes I notice the "married filing separately" option under filing status. In what circumstance would I be better off choosing this over "married filing jointly"?

Answer: For the vast majority of married taxpayers, "married filing jointly" is the way to go. In fact, just 4.5% of married couples filed separately for the 2009 tax year, the most recent annual data available. That represented 1.8% of all returns filed that year.

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Adam Zoll does not own shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.