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The IRS holds both husband and wife responsible for jointly-filed taxes, and for any penalties incurred from their joint return. If the IRS needs to go after a couple for delinquent payments, the IRS will pursue whichever spouse it will be easier to collect from.

The innocent spouse rule is the only defense against liability for return inaccuracies caused by a spouse. The rule requires proof that the spouse was unaware of any omissions of income or any other filing inaccuracy, or proof that the tax return was signed under duress.

Married taxpayers who file separately have three years to change their minds and file a joint return, as long as they are still married. The reverse, however, is not true. Taxpayers who have filed jointly can not elect separate filing status after that year's April 15, tax filing deadline.

It is also important to note that taxpayers filing joint returns prior to a divorce may be liable for a portion of a former-spouse's taxes. This liability should be provided for in any separation or divorce agreement. Additionally, even though a taxpayer can not file an individual return after filing a joint return with an former-spouse, they may claim the refund on an amended return even if it is only signed by one of the original couple.

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We do not offer legal advice. All information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. If you have legal questions, we recommend that you seek the advice of legal professionals.

Tax Disclaimer: To ensure compliance with IRS Rules, any U.S. federal tax advice provided in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by the recipient or any other taxpayer (i) for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed on the recipient or any other taxpayer under the Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) in promoting, marketing or recommending to another party a partnership or other entity, investment plan, arrangement or other transaction addressed herein.

Copyright 2017 Wink Tax Services / Wink Inc.
Last modified: January 30, 2017