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6 Things Newlyweds Need to Know About Their First Joint Tax Return

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- If you tied the knot in 2013, there are a few things you and your spouse should consider before filing your taxes April 15. Experts weigh in on the top six things to keep in mind when you make your love IRS-official:

1. It doesn't matter when you got married.

Even if you got married at 11:55 p.m. Dec. 31, 2013, you can still file jointly, explains Kay Bell, tax expert for Bankrate.com.

"You don't have to have been married for the full year," Bell says. "As long as you were married for a few minutes in 2013, you're able to file jointly."

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In other words, the IRS doesn't care when you got hitched. A couple that got married Jan. 1 will be entitled to the exact same joint filing deductions and benefits as a couple that married Dec. 31.

Married taxpayers filing jointly will get a standard deduction of $12,200 for 2013, and those married filing separately will get a $6,100 deduction, according to the IRS.

2. Build a spreadsheet of all your deductions and write-offs.

As a single person, your deductions may not have amounted to much, but now that you're married, it's time to put your heads together and see if the standard deduction is still right for you, says Erin Ballard, director of marketing for CreditCardInsider.com, a credit card comparison site.

"You both need to sit down and take a look at your charitable deductions, your business expenses, anything that you may be able to write off for last year," Ballard says. "If you think of something, jot it down in a spreadsheet."

If you didn't do this during 2013, it's OK, Ballard says. The important thing is that you start doing it as soon as possible and keep a running tally throughout 2014.

"It's much easier to keep a record as you go along rather than doing the end-of-year scramble every April, which is horrible."

3. Know that it's almost always better to file jointly.

Married and filing separately is not the same as filing as a single person, Bell explains.

"The old joke is that one return is easier for the IRS to process than two, so they make it to your advantage to file jointly," she says.

There are very few cases where filing separately is a better option than filing jointly, says Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at CCH, a Walters Kluwer company.

"If you are married filing separately you can't take advantage of certain tax breaks -- in many ways you get penalized for filing separately," Luscombe says.

With that said, there are some instances where it can be advantageous. For example, if one spouse had significant medical expenses in 2013 that exceeded 10% of their adjusted gross income.

"It might be harder to get over that 10% threshold if you are married filing jointly, so in that case it would make more sense for the couple to file separately," he explains.

Also, keep in mind that filing jointly means joint liability -- if you have any doubt that your spouse is being honest about their deductions or earnings, it's best to file separately.

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