It is very common for married couples to only have one spouse work on the tax return. Maybe you’ve always been bad with numbers or have a hard time focusing on complicated paperwork. Perhaps you are a stay-at-home spouse and only earn $200 a year, so it just makes sense for your spouse, who is the primary wage-earner, to handle the annual income tax filings for your household as well.
Although you trust your spouse to handle tax paperwork appropriately, sometimes people learn the hard way that their spouse failed to do so. If the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has sent notice of past-due taxes and possibly a criminal tax violation, is there any way to protect yourself as the person who didn’t file the tax return?
The IRS knows one spouse might be innocent
The good news for you as someone worried about criminal penalties related to your spouse’s tax decisions is that the IRS is quite realistic about how people handle household tax matters. The organization recognizes that in many households, one spouse doesn’t really review the taxes and may just sign the form, trusting that their spouse will do what is right.
Provided that you were unaware of your spouse’s misconduct, you may be in a position to apply for what the IRS refers to as innocent spouse relief. Someone who did not play a role in preparing tax documents could potentially ask the IRS to exclude them from any penalties the organization imposes.
To qualify, you must be able to credibly claim that you did not know about the fraud or evasion and that you did not directly benefit from it. Innocent spouse relief isn’t an option if the allegations related to your personal income, business taxes, household employment taxes and a few other unusual situations.
Complex tax situations necessitate professional help
Realizing that there could soon be a tax controversy related to your household income tax return could make you worry about your financial future or the risk of ending up with a criminal record. The more you know about your rights, the easier it will be to protect yourself.