Separate Taxation or Joint Assessment for Married Couples

A married couple (husband and wife) who receive employment income are assessed under salaries tax as separate individuals. However, they may elect to be jointly assessed if the election can reduce their overall tax liability. Here you learn about the difference between separate taxation and joint assessment, the potential benefits of joint assessment and the time limit for advising the Inland Revenue Department about an election for or withdrawal of joint assessment.

Separate Taxation

Under separate taxation, a married couple with employment income will be assessed as separate individuals.  If both you and your spouse have assessable income, each of you should declare the income and claim expenses and deduction in the tax returns.  Separate notices of assessment will be issued to you and your spouse and the tax charged on each will not take into account the income of the other spouse.

If your spouse does not have income assessable under salaries tax, you are entitled to claim the married person’s allowance and need not elect joint assessment.

More on the Married Person’s Allowance

Joint Assessment

Joint assessment can be advantageous for a married couple if the assessable income of one spouse is less than his or her tax allowance. If this is the case, you and your spouse should each complete a Tax Return - Individuals (BIR60) and elect joint assessment in part 4.4 and both you and your spouse have to sign in part 9 of each tax return. The election must be made on a yearly basis.

Under joint assessment, the incomes of the couples will be aggregated and the married person’s allowance or other allowances that the couple is eligible for will be deducted from the couple’s joint total income. This could result in some tax savings, and a notice of assessment will be issued. However, if joint assessment does not result in less tax, each spouse will receive a separate notice of assessment.

More on the treatment of married couples under joint assessment

Time Limit

It is important to note that there is a time limit for the election for or withdrawal of joint assessment. An election or withdrawal must be made:

  • within that year of assessment or the following year of assessment; or
  • within 1 month after the assessment for the year of assessment becomes final and conclusive, whichever is the later; or
  • within such further time, if any, as the Commissioner may allow as being reasonable in the circumstances. 

However, once you withdraw your election, re-election for the same year of assessment will not be entertained.

Last review date: May 2016