I recently turned 26, and I need to purchase health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I am getting married in December 2019. To accurately fill out the application for income, I need to know if we have to file jointly for 2019 or if we can file separately.
If you are filling out the application for health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace prior to Dec. 15, 2019, you should fill out the application as a single person by answering “No” to Question 3 – Are you married? When you file your 2019 tax return, you have the option to file as married filing jointly (MFJ) or married filing separately (MFS). Because you and your spouse will be legally married by the last day of 2019, you must file as either one of those statuses. Neither one of you will be eligible to file a return as a single filer beginning in 2019.
The choice of filing an MFJ return or an MFS return should not solely hinge on health care coverage. The choice depends on each taxpayer’s individual situation. For example, Taxpayer A and Taxpayer B were married by the end of 2018. Taxpayer A had a $20,000 itemized deduction that was specifically attributable to Taxpayer A, while Taxpayer B had no qualifying itemized deductions. It may have been more beneficial for each spouse to file an MFS return as opposed to one MFJ return so that Taxpayer A could have realized the benefit of the large itemized deduction. The benefit of Taxpayer A’s large itemized deduction would have been lost if Taxpayer A and Taxpayer B filed a joint return together since they would have elected to take the standard deduction of $24,000. By filing separately, Taxpayer A would have had a $20,000 itemized deduction, and Taxpayer B would have had a $12,000 standard deduction (the 2018 deduction amount for individuals), resulting in $32,000 of combined deductions for the couple. You should consult with a tax professional to determine whether an MFJ or an MFS return best suits you and your spouse’s tax situation. Your consultation with a tax professional will determine whether you should answer “Yes” or “No” to Question 7a – Will you file jointly with a spouse?
Assuming that you are filling out the application prior to Dec. 15, 2019, your fiancé or fiancée should be excluded from your household on the application unless you have a child together or you’ll claim your partner as a dependent. The latter scenario will not apply to you because, regardless of whether you file an MFJ or MFS return for the 2019 tax year, you cannot claim a spouse as a dependent.
Once you are married, you will need to report a qualifying life event (QLE) in your Marketplace account. A QLE is a change in your situation — like getting married, having a baby, or losing health coverage — that can make you eligible for a Special Enrollment Period, allowing you to enroll in health insurance outside the yearly Open Enrollment Period. Once you select your applicable QLE, you will navigate through the application to report your change. If your new eligibility results show that you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, you can then shop for plans and enroll in a different one.
For more resources, check out PICPA’s Money & Life Tips, Ask a CPA, or CPA Locator.
Answered by: Marc C. Weber, CPA, is owner of Weber Tax & Consulting LLC, assistant controller of York Building Products, and an adjunct professor for Harrisburg Area Community College.