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How to save on taxes? Try a divorce

If both partners make more than $400,000 a year, a married couple could end up paying more in taxes than two single wage earners would pay.

By MSN Money Partner Jan 14, 2013 12:18PM

This post is by Jacqueline Leo of The Fiscal Times.

 

© Mike Kemp/JupiterimagesClick the Huffington Post’s “divorce channel” (yes, the site has one) and you’ll see a typical women’s magazine story about the 10 signs you’re headed for a divorce.  You’ve heard it all before:
  • Forget being on the same page, you're not even in the same book.
  • You’ve outgrown her.
  • He doesn’t fulfill your needs.
  • You’re staying together because of the kids.
  • Blah, blah, blah.

Of all the known reasons for getting a divorce, we bet you've never heard this one before. You both make too much money to stay together! Sounds ridiculous, right? But the new fiscal cliff tax law that saved 99% of the country from massive tax hikes made a beeline for love-struck yuppies. 

 

Meet the new George and Martha: two investment bankers who fell in love over a bottle of Barolo while students at Wharton. They were made for each other and had the looks, the lifestyle and the resumes that Wall Street firms bid for. 

As their earnings and bonuses increased, they bought a 2,000-square-foot apartment in the heart of New York’s Tribeca. This was a paint-by-numbers picture: designer clothes, Hamptons weekends, movie premieres and trips to exotic places. Before long they were each making about $400,000 a year. And, thanks to the Bush-era tax cuts, they were able to keep a lot of that money and live the high life. 

 

That was before the tax deal that would save the country from recession and make George and Martha a bullet point on "signs you may be heading for divorce." The new law raises taxes on couples making more than $450,000 and individuals making more than $400,000. When their accountant told them they may have to limit their deductions because of their joint incomes as well, they asked her to run the numbers and come up with an alternative.

 

At their next meeting, she presented them with two options -- file as a married couple and pay the piper, or divorce and file as "single." As it turns out, George and Martha would save more than $27,000 a year if they divorced (you can see a chart here). And so they did. But they’re still together, in some ways closer than ever. 

 

They started their own business geared to couples like them called MisMatch.com. They analyze people’s taxes based on marital status, types of investments, etc., and try to save people a bundle. George and Martha’s next step  is to design new software to compete with the big tax programs for people at all levels of the tax code.


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