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Married taxes clarification

Learn more about the marriage penalty in taxes. Married couples can't avoid it by filing as individuals. They must choose between married filing jointly or married filing separately. Both options can lead to similar tax amounts. Created by Sal Khan.

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Video transcript

Want to make a few clarifications on the video on the marriage penalty. The first is to point out a minor arithmetic error is that when I calculated the amount of taxes to pay on this bracket, so the 15% of the increment between 17,850 and 72,500, that is actually 8,198 and since that was 8,198 this right over here would have been $10 higher. So it's 43,466. It doesn't change at all the ideas. It's actually a small amount of money in the whole context of things, but I just wanted to get the math a little bit more correct, but you still see that you have a marriage penalty. But the more important thing that I want to clarify is I saw in the discussion on the marriage penalty videos, some people saying, "Okay, fine. If it costs more to file married jointly," "well, why don't those people just opt to file as individuals" "and then they'd just have to pay this right over here" "and they could essentially opt out of the marriage penalty." And I want to clarify is that is not an option. If you are married, you don't use the pure individual tax schedule. You don't use this over here. Instead, if you are married but you want to file separate, you use the married filing separate tax schedule and you see in this, that this is ... this is exactly ... it's different ... It's the same as the individual tax schedule up until in these first three brackets, but then as we go above that bracket, it gets into the higher tax rates faster than the individual ones and it does it ... If you look at these brackets here, you see that they're exactly half the brackets of the married filing jointly and that's because, at least for this couple right over here, that's making identical incomes, they're going to pay the exact same amount, taking into account some roundoff error, for married filing separate as they are married filing jointly. And we can go through that exercise. So each of them had 100,000 in taxable income and in Couple A example that I gave and so the first 10 per or the first 8,925 they're going to pay 10%. That's just rounding. That's 890 ... 893, actually I could even say 892.5 if I want. 892.5 is 10% of that. Then on the next bracket, they're going to pay 15%. So that is $4,099 ... $4,099. And then on the next bracket, they're going to pay 25%. So 25% of this right over here, actually I think I rounded this number, but we'll take into consideration a little round off error. So 9, 238 and then they're going to pay 28% ... 28% on the increment ... The increment above 73,200. So they each have 100,000 ... 1,2,3 in taxable income. Subtract 73,000, 200 from that and they're paying 28% on it and this gets us, each of them having to spend 20 or have to pay 21,733.5 in taxes. If we combine the two for both parties to the couple, we have 43,467 ... 43,467 which is essentially the same as if they would have had to file jointly, the difference between the 6 or the 7 that's just because of some of the round off right over here, but they had to pay the functionally equivalent tax rate. So just to be clear, if you are married you either have to do married filing jointly, married filing separate. There's also a separate head of household, but you do not have the option of filing under an individual, so you can't just opt out of the marriage penalty, if it happens to exist for the scenario that you happen to fall into.