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Ask J: Tax Filing Status + TurboTax Giveaway!

March 17th, 2010

Reader Mailbag

Who doesn’t love giving their opinion? I’m no exception. I love the dialog that transpires on this and other personal finance blogs. If you have a personal, financial, or legal related question you’d like me to answer, hit me up on my Contact Page. And of course, remember – I don’t have all your facts. All content on my site is just that – opinion! I am not a professional financial advisor. Make sure you double-check all my sources and seek professional guidance, whether legal, financial, psychological, or otherwise :)

Ask J

Today’s question comes from a reader in California, my former home state where I was born & raised. As Dr. Dre & Tupac said, “California knows how to party” – but even rappers have to file taxes. Here’s what our reader asks:


Dear MyMoneyMinute:

I recently got married last October. In doing a trial run of our federal tax return, we get a bigger refund filing “Married – Filing Jointly”. However, in our State Tax Return, our refund is bigger when we file “Married – Filing Separate”!

My question is this — Am I allowed to use a different filing status for my federal & state returns, or must they be consistent?


Well my friend, as any good attorney would say, it depends! To find the answer to your question, I first contacted Kelly Phillips Erb, aka the “Taxgirl”, a tax attorney out of Philly. You can follow her on Twitter (@taxgirl) and read her tax musings on her website. In our Twitter exchange, we didn’t see why you couldn’t use a different filing status, BUT the issue would definitely be controlled by State law. In other words, “it depends” because there could be at least 50 different answers depending on where you live.

California Dreamin’

So the answer lies not with the feds, but the State of California. The answer to your question is found here: California Franchise Tax Board Publication 1051A. The 1st page, 2nd column, 3rd paragraph says:

“California requires you to use the same filing status on your California return as you used on your federal return.”

The relevant exceptions to this revolve around gay marriage and domestic partnerships, which the feds do not recognize and California courts did for a few months.

Mine, Yours, Ours

Another issue you may have overlooked is how community property affects your tax return in California. According to the FTB Pub. 1051A linked above, California community property rules mean that even if you file separately, you and your spouse must claim your income equally. You make $50k and she makes $10k? If you’re filing separately you both claim $30k in income. This forced equality would likely put the kabash on any plans for the lower-paid spouse to claim/qualify for any tax credits.

And That’s My Final Answer

Sorry my friend, looks like in California, the luck of the Irish is not with you today!

TurboTax Giveaway

A fellow member of the Yakezie blogging network is giving away a couple copies of TurboTax Premium Edition. If you want a chance to score free tax software and read some great content, check out Evan at My Journey To Millions. Evan is an Estate Planning attorney in New York, has great content on his site, and is a funny, funny dude. Read his post and follow his instructions on how to enter the contest.

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