Married people who file taxes jointly and leave it up to their spouse to do the job may not like to hear that they are taking a risk, but they are. Not only is there the risk of the spouse messing up the numbers, but there is also the risk that the spouse could be fudging numbers and committing fraud as well. With risks like this, it could be said, you don’t have to be concerned about it until you do.
Because both spouses are liable for joint filing of taxes, they can both face penalties from the IRS if an audit turns up evidence of negligence or fraud. The best preventative, of course, is for both spouses to either take an active role in filing tax returns or just file separately. Fortunately, the IRS does recognize that there are situations where a spouse cannot fairly be held responsible for a bad tax filing.
Several types of relief are available for spouses through the IRS, depending on the circumstances of the case. Innocent spouse relief is available in cases where a spouse did not know, and had no reason to know, that there was a tax understatement when they signed the tax forms. This type of relief could apply in cases where the other spouse failed to report other forms of income and hid them from the innocent spouse. Innocent spouse relief would, presumably, not be available in cases where a spouse failed to examine the tax documents and the numbers entered by the other spouse.
In our next post, we’ll speak about two other forms of relief that may be available to a spouse who has become liable for a spouse’s tax misdeeds.