As a Maryland Divorce Attorney, I often counsel my clients on the risks involved in filing joint tax returns with their soon to be ex-spouses. It is not uncommon for individuals with businesses or other complicated returns to obtain an automatic six month extension. For such individuals, October 15th becomes the filing date. Since that date is approaching, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss some related issues a spouse facing divorce might want to consider.
Spouses who are married as of the last day of the year are entitled to file a joint tax return. The advantage is that the federal tax is almost always less as applied to the combined income of the couple.
“ If your spouse fails to report business income or improperly claims deductions, you are equally responsible if you file a joint return.
Frequently, one spouse benefits more than the other from filing jointly. For example, a spouse with a lesser income might be entitled to a refund on a return filed as married filing separately. On the other hand, the spouse with the higher income would incur a higher income tax obligation by filing separately.
By filing jointly, both spouses become jointly and severally liable on the tax return. For example, if your spouse has failed to report business income or improperly claims deductions, you are equally responsible if you file a joint return. There are exceptions to the general rule of joint and several liability. However, the burden is on the taxpayer to convince the IRS that an exception applies.
While there is time before the October deadline, carefully review IRS rules and seek advice from your divorce attorney or tax adviser. Taxpayers who file separately can file an amended joint return for up to three years. However, if you file jointly, you cannot change that decision.