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Winter wedding wonderlands and tax-filing status

The part of West Texas where I grew up definitely had winter weather, but not much snow. We'd get a dusting now and then. And one Christmas when I was in high school we spotted some flakes falling.

So I always romanticized the snow. And no song does a better job of creating a perfect vision of the coldest season than Winter Wonderland.

OK, it's not technically a Christmas song. But I'm guessing that Winter Wonderland gets its most air play in December. And it's on just about every Christmas carol collection every recorded.

So the song is today's featured Christmas Tax Tips Tune. And, harking back to my romanticized childhood view of winter, Winter Wonderland specifically brings us romance with its mention of marriage.

Marriage date's effect on filing status: The lyric about Parson Brown conducting the wedding ceremony when he's in town also is the song's link to taxes.

Specifically, your marital status at the end of the tax year determines, in most cases, your filing status for that full year. And your filing status determines which tax rates and which standard deduction amounts apply to your tax return. Eligibility for certain tax breaks also is affected by filing status.

If you exchange vows on Dec. 31, then the Internal Revenue Service considers you married for the full tax year. That means you can file as married filing jointly or married filing separately.

So if you, like the folks in the song, are facing unafraid the wedding plans you've made, consider your wedding date carefully.

Not to suck the romance out of your relationship or holidays, but it could be worthwhile to have a tax talk with your intended. You might discover that it would be worthwhile from a tax perspective to say "I do" within the next nine days.

Or for tax purposes it might not matter or would be better to wait until next year to exchange vows. The three-plus decades ago when the hubby and I were discussing wedding dates, we decided to wait so that we'd be able to claim a tax break back then for dual income marrieds.

So run the numbers -- quickly -- just to be sure.

Same rules for same-sex couples: The 2013 tax years also marks the beginning of such marriage and federal tax filing status considerations for a whole new group of taxpayers.

Same-sex couples who marry now face the same end-of-year marital status rules as heterosexual marrieds.

In the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the IRS decided that married same-sex couples must file as married taxpayers (jointly or separately) even if the state in which they live doesn't recognize their marriage.

Works the other way, too: Remember that the Dec. 31 date also has the reverse relationship application.

If you and your spouse just can't make a go of it, then the official end of your marriage determines when you'll be able to file as a single or, if you have kids, head of household taxpayer.

If the divorce decree is final on Dec. 31, then the IRS considers you unmarried for the previous 364 days (or 365 in a Leap Year), too.

But let's not go there. In my winter and tax wonderland, all happy couples stay that way forever!

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Marilyn D'Auria Southern NJ Officiant

Thank you for touching base on same gender marriages. As marriages are changing, everyone needs to understand the laws and need to have their situations addressed. Thank you for sharing.

Brian Huber

Worth mentioning (because I get a lot of questions about it) is the fact that states also use December 31 to determine state income tax marital status for the year. So, a taxpayer can file jointly when reporting her taxable income for the state where she lived before getting married -- even if her new husband never lived there.

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