Tax Season Tips for Couples

Two men hike through a wood lined field. Each man has a small child on his shoulders.

Ahhh, February. The time when love and taxes both loom large in the air. As couples gear up to file their taxes, we've compiled some essential tips to navigate the process smoothly.

If you're living with someone, supporting them and their children, but aren't married, you generally cannot claim the Head of Household filing status. An exception exists if you're also living with and supporting a dependent related to you.

Even when you're living with and supporting your partner's children, if you're not married to your partner and the children aren't biologically yours, you cannot claim them as "qualifying children" for the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Child Tax Credit. However, you might still be able to claim them as "qualifying relatives" for the "credit for other dependents." Similarly, if you're supporting your partner, they might qualify as a "qualifying relative" for this credit.

For married couples who lived together throughout the year, the filing statuses Single or Head of Household are not options. Your choices are Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately. Choosing Married Filing Jointly means that if taxes are owed, both partners are responsible, and the IRS can collect from either or both. Conversely, filing as Married Filing Separately has its downsides. You cannot claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, you may have to repay health insurance subsidies received from the HealthCare Marketplace, and you might face higher taxes on Social Security benefits, among other disadvantages.

Married individuals whose spouse owes money to the IRS or other federal or state agencies can protect their portion of any refund by filing for Injured Spouse relief using IRS Form 8379, even if filing jointly. Without this request, the IRS may use the refund to cover your spouse's debts. To check for non-IRS debts that could affect your refund, contact the Treasury Offset Program at 1-800-304-3107.

The intricacies of IRS rules can be daunting. It's crucial to provide your tax preparer with a complete picture of your relationships and living situation to ensure accurate tax preparation.

Remember, Philadelphia residents have access to free tax preparation services through organizations like the Campaign for Working Families and

Should you encounter difficulties with your refund or IRS communications post-filing, we're here to assist. Reach out to our intake line at 215-981-3800, available from 9:30 am to 12 pm, Monday through Thursday, or apply online at