May 17, 2010 12:00 am

Unmarried Couple Can’t File a Joint Tax Return

The tax law allows married persons to file joint tax returns, which enables them to use the standard deduction amount and tax rates exclusively for joint filers. Whether a person is “married” for purposes of filing a joint federal tax return is determined by state law.

In one recent case, a man and woman in Florida filed a joint tax return. They weren’t legally married even though they lived together as husband and wife. Florida does not recognize common-law marriages, so the couple could not be considered “married” for federal income tax purposes. They had to file as single individuals.

Note: Even though some states recognize same-sex marriages, these couples are not treated as “married” for federal income tax purposes because the federal Defense of Marriage Act (which defines marriage for purposes of administering federal law as a union between a man and a woman as husband and wife) bars such treatment.


Tax Glossary


A person or corporation such as a trustee, executor, or guardian who manages property for another person.

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