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Are you responsible if your spouse cheated on taxes?

You have probably heard the warning many times in your adult life not to sign something you have not read. Nevertheless, most people will admit that they do so frequently. Someone pushes a paper across the desk or counter, gives a synopsis of the contents and points to the line where you should sign.

If you do this so easily with people you barely know, chances are you don't think twice when your spouse asks you to sign something. This may have happened recently during tax time, and you may recall several years when your spouse asked you to sign tax forms you didn't bother to review. Unfortunately, when a spouse signs a tax return, the Internal Revenue Service assumes that spouse has full knowledge of what the forms contain. If your spouse cheats on your taxes, the IRS may hold you liable.

Proving your innocence

If your spouse has cheated on your joint tax return and you signed the form, the IRS presumes you complied with your spouse's deceit. Your spouse may have lied about your joint income, claimed unlawful tax credits or inflated deductions. Unless you reviewed the forms yourself and double-checked the documentation, you may not have known of your spouse's dishonesty.

You may have a difficult time proving your ignorance. However, if you can convince the IRS that you were an innocent party in the deception and that you had no reason to believe your spouse lied on the joint tax form you signed, you may be able to obtain Innocent Spouse Relief from the back taxes the IRS will require you to repay.

How do I get relief from the IRS?

To request Innocent Spouse Relief, you must file Form 8857 within two years after you receive the first notice of tax collection from the IRS. To be eligible for Innocent Tax Relief, the following factors must exist:

  • You and your spouse filed a joint return.
  • Your spouse improperly reported critical information on the tax form resulting in an understatement of the total tax due.
  • You had no knowledge of the impropriety on the tax forms.

After reviewing your submission for relief, the IRS will determine whether you should share liability for delinquent taxes. There are other methods of relief available if the Innocent Spouse Relief is not appropriate for your circumstances. For example, if you have been divorced within the past year and living apart from your spouse, you may qualify for partial relief. For help applying for and understanding the options available, a knowledgeable Missouri tax attorney can be of assistance.

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