The tax rates are higher for married filing separately. In most cases, you are better off married filing jointly. When in doubt, the best thing to do is to run the numbers both ways.
But is very rarely beneficial to file married filing separately.
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Persons who use the "married filing separately" filing status lose a bunch of credits and deductions. You can see the list in the first three chapters of Publication 17. P17 is free at www.irs.gov . P17 has the answers to most common tax situations.
In general, most couples pay more total taxes when filing under the separate status.
Sometimes, there are non-tax reasons to file separately. Some couples (such as politicians) file separately as a way to not have to file public disclosures on the private spouses' finances.
Moreover, in community property states, such as WA, figuring out how to allocate each spouse's incomes and deductions can be difficult.