Taxation of married people and civil partners

Introduction

If you get married, both you and your spouse continue to be treated as single people for tax purposes in that year. If, however, the tax you pay as two single people is greater than the tax that would be payable if you were taxed as a married couple, you can claim the difference as a tax refund. Refunds are only due from the date of marriage and will be calculated after the following 31 December. So, for example, if you get married in 2022, any tax refund due to you will be calculated after 31 December 2022.

Refunds are normally only due where a couple are taxed at different rates and one spouse could benefit from the unused standard rate cut-off point or for some of the unused tax credits of the other spouse.

When you get married it is important to inform Revenue of the date of your marriage. You can update your marital status with Revenue online.

Taxation of civil partners

Civil partners are entitled to the same rights as married couples in financial matters such as tax, inheritance, property, pensions and maintenance if the relationship breaks down. Some legal relationships between same sex couples that are recognised by a foreign state (such as marriage, civil union, civil partnership) are recognised by Revenue for taxation purposes. You can read further information about civil partnerships.

Rules

For the years following your marriage or civil partnership, there are three options for taxation:

  • Assessment as a single person (you are both still taxed as single people)
  • Separate assessment
  • Joint assessment

Assessment as a single person

Under assessment as a single person, also known as separate treatment, each spouse or civil partner is treated as a single person for tax reasons. With this option:

  • Both spouses or civil partners are taxed on their own income
  • Both spouses or civil partners get tax credits and the same standard rate cut-off point due to a single person
  • Both spouses or civil partners pay their own tax
  • Both spouses or civil partners complete their own return of income form and claim their own tax credits. One spouse or civil partner cannot claim relief for payments made by the other. There is no right to transfer tax credits or standard rate cut-off point to each other.

You can request separate treatment in myAccount or by writing to Revenue. Either spouse or civil partner can make the claim and the option remains until the person who claims it changes their mind. If you want to claim assessment as a single person, you must apply within the tax year (preferably at the start of the year).

Choosing to be assessed as a single person when you are married or in a civil partnership is unfavourable in some circumstances. This is mainly because you cannot transfer any unused tax credits or standard rate cut-off point. You cannot claim Home Carer's Tax Credit if your spouse or civil partner is caring for a dependent person and would otherwise qualify for the relief.

Separate assessment

Under the separate assessment option, the tax affairs of spouses or civil partners are independent of each other. The difference between separate assessment and assessment as a single person is that some tax credits are divided equally between you under the separate assessment option. These tax credits are:

The Employee Tax Credit (formerly known as the PAYE tax credit) and expenses (if any), are allocated to the appropriate spouse/civil partner. Any tax credits other than the Employee Tax Credit and employment expenses that are unused by one partner can be claimed by the other spouse or civil partner. The tax credits are not usually adjusted until after the end of the tax year.

Any tax credits that are unused (other than the Employee Tax Credit and employment expenses) and the standard rate cut-off point up to €45,800 in 2022 can be transferred to the other spouse or civil partner but only at the end of the tax year. The increase in the standard rate tax band of up to €27,800 in 2022 is not transferable between partners. If you think you have unused tax credits or standard rate cut-off point, contact Revenue for a review after the end of the tax year. Overall, the amount of the tax that is payable under this option (separate assessment) is the same that is payable under the joint assessment option discussed below.

The claim for separate assessment must be made between 1 October of the previous year and 31 March in the year you want separate assessment to apply. Either spouse or civil partner can request this form of assessment, although the other spouse or civil partner will have to confirm this request. Separate assessment will then continue until you request to change it. These requests can be made in myAccount or by writing to Revenue. Each spouse or civil partner can complete a separate return of their own income.

Joint assessment

The joint assessment option is usually the most favourable basis of assessment for a married couple or civil partners. This option is automatically given by the tax office when you advise them of your marriage or civil partnership, but this does not prevent you from choosing any of the options examined earlier. Under this option, the tax credits and standard rate cut-off point can be allocated between spouses to suit their own circumstances.

If only one spouse or civil partner has taxable income, all tax credits and the standard rate cut-off point will be given to the spouse or civil partner with the income.

If both of you have taxable income, you can decide which of you is to be the assessable spouse or nominated civil partner. The assessable spouse or nominated civil partner is responsible for filing tax returns and paying any tax due. You can select the assessable person using myAccount or by writing to Revenue before 31 March in the year you want the selection to apply. They continue to be the assessable person unless you both decide to change that. If you do not make a selection, the person with the higher income is the assessable person.

You then ask the tax office to allocate the tax credits and standard rate cut-off point between you in whatever way you want. (The Employee Tax Credit, employment expenses and the increase in standard rate cut-off point of €27,800 in 2022 are not transferable).

You will both receive updated Tax Credit Certificates showing the allocation of your credits and rate band.

If Revenue does not get a request from you to allocate your tax credits in any particular way, it will normally give all the tax credits (other than the other partner's Employee and expense tax credits) to the spouse or civil partner being assessed. The spouse or civil partner being assessed must complete the return of income for the couple and is charged for tax on the joint income of the couple.

If one spouse or civil partner is self-employed, joint assessment can still apply. The flexibility this option brings can be convenient - especially if one of you pays tax under the PAYE system and the other pays tax under the self-assessment system. Under joint assessment, you let your circumstances determine if most of the tax should be paid under PAYE or in a lump sum on assessment. This is determined by the way in which the tax credits are allocated. If you choose to pay most of your tax under PAYE, your credits can be transferred to the self-employed person (but not employment expenses or the Employee Tax Credit).

If a refund is due at the end of the year, it will be repaid to each person in proportion to the amount of tax each has paid.

Rates

The standard rate cut-off point for married couples/civil partners is €45,800 in 2022. This amount is taxed at 20% and the balance is taxed at 40%. Where both spouses/civil partners have income, this standard rate cut-off point can be increased by the lower of the following:

  • €27,800 in 2022 or
  • The amount of the income of the spouse/civil partner with the smaller income.

You cannot claim this increase as well as the Home Carer Tax Credit. If you are eligible for both, contact your Revenue office to help you decide which would be best for you.

It was announced in Budget 2023 that the standard rate cut-off point for 2023 will be €49,000 with a maximum increase of €31,000.

How to apply

Joint assessment: to nominate or change the assessable spouse, you must contact Revenue by 31 March of the year you want the change to apply to. Use myAccount or send a letter to Revenue signed by both of you. You can also fill in an Assessable Spouse Election Form (pdf) or Nominated Civil Partner’s Election Form (pdf) and send it to Revenue by 31 March.

Separate assessment: to be assessed separately from your spouse, you must contact Revenue between 1 October and 31 March. For example, to be assessed separately in 2023, the claim must be made between 1 October 2022 and 31 March 2023. To request separate assessment, use myAccount or write to Revenue.

Further information about the taxation of married people and civil partners, with examples showing how income is taxed, is available on Revenue's website.
Page edited: 4 October 2022