Joint and separate tax returns
It’s important to understand how your taxes are being handled
Typically, every person is responsible for their own tax return, taking full liability for any problems related to inaccuracy and fraud.
Married couples have the option to file their taxes jointly – as a family. Depending on the case and state, there may be benefits to filing jointly or separately. Usually, you will pay less if you file a joint tax return, especially in states with community property (Texas, Arizona, etc). Thus, many families opt to file their taxes jointly.
However, the laws also mandate that each spouse is 100% liable for their joint tax return. If one partner cheats on their taxes, the IRS will hold both responsible.
Usually, fraud is not discovered immediately. Years can pass and the couple may no longer be living together. However, the IRS is only interested in recovering lost revenue – if your name is on the tax return, they will come knocking.
Imagine the surprise of going to the bank, only to be notified there is a lien on your name for tax fraud committed by your ex-spouse five years ago. Suddenly, you owe the IRS tens of thousands of dollars for something you never took part of. And, there are official documents with your name and signature. The burden of proof lies entirely with you.
Fortunately, the IRS has established a procedure that allows family members to resolve such situations.