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Dealing with a Former Spouse's Tax Issues

Avoiding tax time drama is one of the things that divorcees may not think about when first planning for divorce, but it could be a real issue once it is time to file tax returns. This could be especially important for parties who had no input or financial contributions towards the couple's income, and would have no idea if the filing they signed were correct. Under federal law, these people can be held jointly liable for tax fraud, even though they were unwitting participants. In these situations, it is important to understand the defenses to such a crime.

For those people accused of tax fraud (even though they had little, if any, input on the tax return), they could seek equitable relief from the IRS. This type of remedy asks for leniency because the person was not compliant in committing fraud, and simply trusted their offending spouses in providing accurate information in their joint return. (After all, simply signing a return means that the signers had reasonable knowledge of the information contained in the return).

However, there are a number of situations where innocent spouses unwittingly signed false returns. The most common involves abused spouses who were compelled to sign a return. In the past few years, the IRS has changed its stance with equitable relief cases in this regard, because abused spouses are commonly not in a position to challenge the information set forth in a return.

Nevertheless, if you are accused of tax fraud because of the past dealings of a former spouse, it is important to understand the defenses available to you.

Source:, "Teresa Guidice and Joe's new strategy for fraud trial," January 18, 2014

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