For Better or Worse Many middle-income couples could receive a tax benefit from being married. When one spouse makes significantly less money than the other or doesn’t have a job, their combined income — while taking advantage of deductions and exemptions for both spouses —may fall into a lower tax bracket, so the family may actually pay less in taxes overall. Couples with similar incomes are more likely to encounter a penalty — generally once their combined taxable income rises above the 32% tax bracket — simply because the joint income thresholds of the highest two brackets are less than double the amounts for single filers. Income taxes rarely play a major role in decisions about marriage, but most couples eventually consider how their official union affects their finances. Will You Pay the “Marriage Penalty”? Depending on their income, state of residence, and tax credits and deductions used, some married couples discover that they pay more in taxes than they would as unmarried individuals. Although recent changes to the federal tax code have eliminated the marriage penalty for most households, high earners may still pay more as a married couple. It’s important for married taxpayers to arrange employer withholding to cover taxes based on their combined incomes; otherwise, they could end up paying out of pocket at tax time. In most cases, filing separately is unlikely to ease the situation.