January 5, 1981
Under Internal Revenue Code Section 143(b), married persons living apart from their spouses who meet certain other requirements are considered not married. Code Sections 44A (child care credit) and 105(b) (exclusion of disability payments) and certain other sections require that married persons file joint returns in order to benefit under these sections. These sections usually provide an exemption from the joint return requirement for married persons who meet qualifications similar to those in Code Section 143(b).
You ask whether Massachusetts follows this federal "deserted" or "abandoned spouse" rule.
Massachusetts gross income is federal gross income with modifications. (G.L. c. 62, Section 2(a)). General Laws Chapter 62, Section 1(g) provides:
"The determination of whether the taxpayer is married shall be made as of the close of his taxable year...An individual legally separated from his spouse under a decree of divorce or of separate maintenance shall not be considered as married."
Therefore, a married person, who is living apart from his spouse, but not subject to a decree of separate maintenance, and who files a separate return is not eligible for any Massachusetts deduction, exclusion or credit which requires married persons to file jointly. However, such a person will be eligible for any Massachusetts deduction, credit, or exclusion which incorporates a federal provision, such as the child care deduction in General Laws Chapter 62, Section 3(B)(a)(7), if such person is eligible federally and did not file a federal joint return.
The following exemptions, deductions and credits are available to married persons only if they file joint returns:
"1. the higher exemption totaling [$2,800] rather than the $1,000 allowed to each if filing separately;
2. an exemption of from $1 to $2,000 as determined by the amount of earned income of the spouse with the smaller income;
3. one $600 deduction for a person who maintains a household which includes dependent members under the age of 12 who qualify for an exemption as a dependent under Section 151 of the Code;
4. an additional [$700] exemption for his or her spouse who had attained the age of 65 before the close of the taxable year;
5. an exemption of $200 from interest and dividends earned on savings deposits, savings accounts, shares or share savings accounts included in Part B gross income;
6. a credit pursuant to Section 6(b) of Chapter 62 for residents having joint total income, as defined in Section 5(a) of Chapter 62, of $5,000 or less; or
7. a no tax status if joint total income, as defined in Section 5(a) of Chapter 62, is $5,000 or less."
(830 CMR 62C.06).
Married persons using the short Form 1A must file jointly.
Very truly your
/s/L. Joyce Hampers
L. Joyce Hampers
Commissioner of Revenue
LJH:DMH:mf
LR 81-5