Members of the Maryland Association of Certified Public...

Tax answers

February 29, 1996

Members of the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants are answering readers' tax questions through April 15.

Q: My wife and I are separated. I would like to claim a standard deduction and she wants to itemize her deductions. How can I get around this?

A: If separated spouses meet certain requirements, they are considered "unmarried" for income tax filing purposes. Spouses separated under a "decree of divorce or separate maintenance" on the last day of the tax year may file as Single or Head of Household. Unless this criteria is met, filing statuses are limited to Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately and both spouses must use the same method of claiming deductions.

Things are a little more convoluted for the Maryland state return. If an individual has a Single or Head of Household filing status on the federal return, he selects the same filing status on the Maryland return, allowing one spouse to itemize deductions if he/she itemized on the federal return and the other to use the standard deduction. If a separated couple files as Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately on their federal return, they usually select the same filing status on their Maryland state return and similarly, can choose to itemize deductions if they itemized on their federal return or take the standard deduction.

Here is the wrinkle: If a separated couple files as Married Filing Jointly on their federal return and these spouses are domiciled in different taxing areas (states, counties, cities, etc.), they can select the Married Filing Separately status on their state return. If this couple itemized deductions on their federal return, one spouse can use their portion of the itemized deductions and the other can take the standard deduction on their respective state returns.

The above advice is for general purposes only and is not intended as legal, accounting or tax advice. Specific situations may vary.

A joint service from The Sun and the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants can help you with your tax queries. Association members, all CPAs, will answer questions from readers until April 15. To ask a tax question, call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. Using a touch-tone phone, enter 6225 after you hear the greeting.

Callers are asked to leave their names and phone numbers, should questions need to be clarified. Selected questions will be answered in the Business section. No questions will be answered by phone.

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