The flurry of tax provisions, meant to alleviate the economic dislocation of the Covid plague, have made many tax practitioners sensitive to the possibility of Married Filing Separately yielding a lower tax for a couple. Back in the day, it was rare enough that many felt they could safely ignore it. Lindsay Starrett of Baker Starrett in Grinnell, Iowa, gave me an example of saving taxpayers $3,500.
I am not going to try to parse the details of that or other examples. I will just refer you to Reilly’s Sixth Law of Tax Planning: Don’t do the math in your head. Have good software and code income items as taxpayer, spouse, or joint. You may need to run multiple computations moving the dependent’s around. Also be aware, the IRS may not be as cooperative as it should be in allocating estimated tax payments. One of my old friends wrote me:
"In 2020, we did MFS returns for the $10,200 unemployment exclusion and learned the IRS is unable to …"
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