When Jennifer and Mark Stevens got married last July, they thought life would be easier with a joint income.
“Boy, were we wrong,” Jennifer Stevens said. “We honestly thought that having two incomes would give us more money to work with each month, but it’s not that easy. Especially now, during tax season, there is just so much you have to think about.
The Stevens of Marion are one of thousands of newlywed couples, caught unaware of how their marriage affects their financial situation — and, in turn, their filing status, withholdings and eligibility for tax credits and deductions. Local tax preparers say it’s a stressful time for many, especially married couples who may not understand the terminology present on the, sometimes difficult to understand, tax return.
While staring at the 1040 IRS form, Jennifer and Mark looked at each other with a question in their eyes.
“This is insane,” Mark Stevens said. “What on earth is the difference married filing joint and married filing separate? I just want to put down I’m married and move on. It’s not like this should be rocket science. I just want to pay my taxes, so I don’t get annoying phone calls from the IRS.”
After making a few phone calls, they learned that the tax rates for filing a joint return were higher.
“Anytime we can get more money in our pocket, it is a good thing,” Jennifer Stevens said. “We can use the money to buy things, like toilet paper.”
They continued to work on their tax form for another 15 minutes before Mark Stevens stopped, and immediately got out his phone to call his employer.
“When I was reading over the section asking how many exemptions we had, I started to get worried,” he said. “I know that when I started working I only put down one, but now there’s two in my household. It’s a great problem to have, but I’m not sure what needs to be done about it. I don’t want anyone to say that I cheated on my taxes.”
After talking with the human resources department, he discovered that they didn’t need to change their withholdings for the current year, but needed to file a multiple jobs worksheet as soon as possible, so they would be ready for tax season next year.
“It was such a relief,” he said. “Both Jennifer and I have jobs and we didn’t even think that we’d need to change anything on our W-4s. I’m still one person, and Jennifer is still one person. We’re just living together. But I guess that makes a difference in the eyes of the government.”
Walking out the front door with their form in hand, Mark Stevens said he was pleased that they could get the form filled out. He said he felt a huge burden lift off his shoulders, knowing that they could file and, hopefully, get their rebate check sooner.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s always good to have some extra cash on hand, just in case something unexpected arises.”
Jennifer and Mark Stevens said they heard that there were additional retirement plans offered for married couples who filed their tax return jointly.
“I think we’re going to get an IRA,” he said.
“Even if Jennifer stops working for some reason, we can both contribute to it in the future. All this financial stuff gives me a pain in the head, but it’s worth it if we can secure our future.”