Wedding plans should include some tax planning

Ask the typical summer bride and groom what’s included in the wedding plans, and they probably won’t mention a thorough tax review. Yet, the tax and financial aspects of getting married are not to be taken lightly. Consider the following issues:

■     Tax penalties. Marriage causes many tax regulations to take effect retroactively; that is, if you are married as of December 31, some rules apply as if you were married for the entire year. For instance, the total annual wages of both spouses are combined on a joint return regardless of when the wedding took place. Because two wage-earners filing jointly will often pay more tax than if they filed as singles, this can cause a tax problem that needs to be addressed. You may need to increase your withholding or estimated tax payments, or you could face penalty and interest charges on underpaid taxes.

Marriage can affect deductions too. Combined incomes can reduce itemized deductions, such as medical expenses and casualty losses, by raising adjusted gross income (AGI). So, if one spouse has significant medical expenses, filing jointly might reduce their tax deduction. Overall itemized deductions are further reduced when AGI for 2014 exceeds $305,050. If your combined incomes exceed this amount, you might see a noticeable decline in your allowable deductions.

■     Tax benefits.But marriage also has its tax advantages. A wage-earning spouse can make an additional $5,500 IRA contribution for an unemployed spouse.

Married homeowners also get double the gain exclusion, from $250,000 to $500,000, when selling their home. The only catch is that both spouses must have lived in the home for two years, and neither spouse can have used the exclusion in the previous two years. Clearly, couples that own a home should carefully plan future sales to take advantage of this tax break.

Estate taxes can be lightened by marriage, with a doubling of the exemption amount. Also, married taxpayers can jointly make tax-free gifts of up to $28,000 per year, double the amount a single taxpayer can make.

Wedding bells may be ringing soon, but before you walk down the aisle, consider an analysis of the tax and financial issues in marriage. It may just be the most important item in your wedding plans.

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