Death and taxes are not the only inevitabilities in life. Sooner or later, most people will also fall in love. How that overlaps with personal finance is explored in a comedy film released this month, "Love & Taxes" -- called in an appreciative review in Variety "that unlikely thing: a fine-print financial romantic comedy" -- in which a man falls in love and gets helps coming clean about seven years of unpaid (and unfiled) taxes. Most relationships won't have to deal with anything that extreme, but there are ways even a run-of-the-mill tax time can affect a relationship.
BREAKING YOU UP
Couples used to doing everything together might want to file their taxes separately. It doesn't mean one partner sleeps on the couch a lot, just that some special circumstances may apply -- joint income over $150,000, for instance, or if one spouse has a lot of medical deductions. TurboTax has more.
BINDING YOU TOGETHER
If one partner owes money to the IRS for back taxes (or is caught committing fraud), the other partner can get caught up in it. The agency does allow for the filing of "innocent spouse relief," but it can't feel good to do that. Better to talk through everything up front and make sure no one gets a nasty surprise.
MAKING YOU FEEL APART
If an American living abroad is married to a non-American who earns no income in the United States, it doesn't make sense to file jointly. Only the American needs to file a U.S. tax return, and in the "married filing separately" category. That'll go on until the partner becomes a citizen.
FEELING LIKE A CHORE
There are lots of jobs around the home couples can bicker about -- such as cleaning out the garage or finally finishing repainting the bathroom. Tax filing is not one of those. There are real penalties to missing tax filing deadlines. If one partner is too busy, this is one to work on together.
SHOWING WHO MATTERS
You and your partner may love a dog or cat like a child, but it's not one -- and there's no tax deduction for caring for it. Maybe if the animal is talented enough to be in the movies, there's income or deductions to report, or if you moved for work reasons and the pet was brought along, but most taxpayers will just have to work like a dog for that pet's love.
REVEALING YOUR PERSONALITY
Sorry, no advice on whether toilet paper should fall over or under the roll, and not much help here for Type "A" people partnered with Type "B" people. But unless someone is self-employed and has a massive number of expenses, it is usually not necessary to collect every receipt and scrap of paper from trips to the grocery store or restaurant. Keep only truly needed receipts, and organize them -- don't leave them in random drawers.
SHAKING YOUR TRUST
If it looks like there's going to be a healthy tax refund from this year's return, couples should decide beforehand what to do with it. It's never a good surprise for one partner to find a new motorcycle in the driveway when they were expecting to pay off long-standing credit card debt.
INSPIRING AN OUTSIDE RELATIONSHIP
Taxes is a complicated drag. Some couples may do it together. In some relationships, one partner might be expert enough to do both sets of taxes. But the rest of us shouldn't be afraid to look outside the home for that support ... and get an accountant.
But seriously, there might be a tussle over what accountant to use -- particularly if each partner already had one -- even for couples filing separately. There's no one answer for how to choose. But it's certainly not worth fighting over.