If you are a married couple interested in switching from separate to joint tax returns, then you can do so by completing Form 1040-X. The only requirement is that the form be completed by the appropriate filing deadline. 

Now you might be thinking, what about couples who previously filed jointly but want to switch to submitting returns separately? These couples also have the option of using Form 1040-X as well. The form must also be filed before the due date of the year in question.  

Thankfully, the IRS spells out in great detail what is needed for a couple that filed jointly but now wants to change to married filing separately. The IRS requires that the spouse whose Social Security Numbers appears first on a 1040 to file a 1040-X, while the other spouse is responsible for filing a new 1040. It is important to note that the IRS generally won’t allow married couples to switch once the filing deadline has passed. 

If you are interested in changing from joint to separate just because of a divorce, you should be mindful that you can’t disavow a joint 1040 and file separately with the intention of your spouse having to pay more for taxes. To avoid this, the IRS doesn’t allow couples to switch if the filing date has passed because they want each couple to remain bound by their election to file joint returns. 

It is also important for couples to understand the tax difference between a divorce and an annulment. For example, a divorce is granted to show the end of a marriage that was valid when it began, whereas an annulment is for a marriage that was never valid to begin with. 

For those who are interested in untying the knot in the quickest way possible, it may seem like the difference between the two are not important, however, in the IRS’ eyes it is extremely important to understand the difference especially when it comes time for the 1040.

Since annulments are retroactive and the couples were technically never married, this means the couple had no right to make the election to file joint 1040s . For example, if a couple marries in 2020 and filed jointly for that year, but then the marriage was annulled after the filing deadline, the IRS will consider them to be unmarried at the end of 2020 since their marriage was voided from its inception. This alerts the IRS that the couple needs to “undo” any joint returns filed for prior tax years by filing 1040-Xs as single filers. This means that the IRS may request payment from the individuals for additional taxes and interest. Overall, refunds may be available for those who have had marriages annulled and who would’ve paid reduced taxes if they filed as a single person. 

If you have questions regarding how to amend your filing status, please contact your tax professional today for assistance! 


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