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I am a teacher in New York state and my fiance is currently attending law school (we are getting married in August 2003). So, between the two of us our income is not that much. She is not working while attending school. I have read a few posts about the marriage penalty, but am hoping it may not affect us as much because of our low income.

Best wishes for a long, happy marriage. Some good news here. You will benefit from the rarely-mentioned marriage bonus, not because of your low income, but because you have only one income. If you look at any Taxable Income above $6,000 in the Tax Table, you'll see that a joint filer pays less than a Single filer.

Also, I am in the process of organizing my paperwork to send off to an accountant. I have always done my own taxes, but in this past year I sold a rental property that I had previously lived in, moved from CA to NY, changed careers and have the upcoming marriage, so I decided it was time to hire a professional to help me prepare my taxes.

I am glad that a teacher of our youth is so sensible. I've worked in taxes for over 30 years, and when I sold rental property I hired someone to do the return. Life's too short to try to figure out Form 4797.

If you have any tax planning advice based on what I have written above or recommendations of "good questions" to ask the accountant I would greatly appreciate them.

As soon as you're married, work through Form W-4 to make appropriate changes in your withholding. Oh, all right; have your honeymoon first.

After children, higher education has been about the most popular "let's throw 'em a bone" area recently. Since there are so many different issues, AGI phaseouts, etc., you might want to discuss the tax treatment of your fiancee's expenses, including any anticipated student loan interest, with the accountant. This could also affect the number of withholding allowances you claim.

If you can swing it financially, consider a 2003 IRA contribution for your fiancee. On her own she wouldn't qualify since she has no taxable compensation, but a joint filer, which she will be for 2003, can contribute if her spouse has earned income.

Phil Marti
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