Can you protect yourself if your spouse filed your joint taxes?

On Behalf of | Aug 24, 2022 | Tax Law |

Getting married often leads to spouses sharing everything, from a house and financial accounts to their income tax return each year. When you got married, you may have gratefully handed over your tax filing obligations to your spouse, who promised you that they would get you the best return possible every year without paying for a tax preparation service. 

You took them at their word, and they seemed to deliver on that promise. However, maybe they got arrested by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), or perhaps you received a letter advising you of a pending investigation into what the IRS suspects could be tax evasion or tax fraud. 

You have absolutely no idea what would even be the basis for those allegations, as you have not handled the household finances or done more than sign the tax returns your spouse files. Are you at risk of criminal charges, or is there a way to protect yourself as an innocent spouse not involved with the tax returns? 

The IRS offers innocent spouse relief

It is quite common for one spouse to take control of a household’s income tax responsibilities. It is also typical for someone breaking the law to not advertise that fact, even to the people they are closest to, like their spouse. 

You may have had no idea about the creative accounting that went into your annual tax return this year until the IRS sent notice that your household had underpaid its taxes by thousands of dollars annually. Allegations of tax fraud and intentional underpayment can lead to big tax debts involving penalties and interest. 

Sometimes, there can even be criminal consequences, including jail time and fines. If you qualify for innocent spouse relief, you won’t have to worry about criminal prosecution just because your income tax return included questionable details. 

Who qualifies for innocent spouse relief? 

To qualify as an innocent spouse in the eyes of the IRS, you typically need to show that you did not know and would not have reason to know of your spouse’s fraudulent behavior. If you can show that your circumstances meet that standard, then you may not need to worry about criminal penalties even if the IRS prosecutes your spouse. 

Learning more about tax investigations and ways to protect yourself against criminal charges can help you respond to a frightening letter from the IRS.