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Taxes and Divorce: How to avoid mistakes when filing during a divorce

I sat and thought for a few minutes prior to writing this blog post on what title to use. After careful deliberation I determined that there is no way to make the subjects of divorce and taxes any more palatable- even if I were to dress up the title.

If you are reading this blog post you’re probably considering a divorce and you also pay taxes. How those subjects relate to one another will be the focus of today’s blog from the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC.

Opposites attract in marriage which puts the responsibility for the taxes on one spouse typically

We’ve all heard the saying, “Opposites attract” in the context of dating and relationships. The attributes we find attractive in a potential partner are sometimes the qualities that we ourselves lack in abundance. Quiet and reserved people can see an outgoing and extraverted person as someone he or she would like to spend time with and help balance out their introverted tendencies. Likewise, a person who does not focus on detailed work, like taxes for example, may find a “numbers” person to be quite alluring even on a subconscious level.

With that said from my experience representing clients in divorce cases it is usually one spouse who handles the taxes while the other has nothing to do with them. This means that while the non participating spouse has less responsibility and headaches associated with preparing the taxes and filing them on time, their knowledge of any methods undertaken to complete the taxes is basically zero.

In fact, if those methods were to yield a martial tax return that was incomplete or incorrect there would be no way for the other spouse to know.

Filing a joint tax return: What does it mean for families?

A joint income tax return can help families to save money in ways that spouses filing individually would not. While only one spouse may be actively involved in the preparation of the tax return, both spouses must sign their names to the return. This creates a situation where both spouses are equally liable for any mistakes that are made in determining the tax liability for the married couple.

If this sounds like you and your soon to be ex spouse then take note: if the government determines that additional taxes are owed then both of you are responsible for that additional tax burden along with penalties and interest. Being granted a divorce does not sever this responsibility for one of you.

In many divorce cases that I have worked on, our client was the spouse that was not allowed to access the family financial information. This means that he or she may have been given an “allowance” by their spouse on a weekly basis. Think of what you used to receive from your parents for mowing the lawn or doing the dishes and then expand on that as an adult.

Some spouses are so controlling that they do not allow their partner to view account information online, deposit or withdraw funds at their bank or even know how much the other earns on a yearly basis. With this in mind, it doesn’t seem right that both spouses have the same level of responsibility for filling out and submitting a tax return that is free of errors.

Innocent Spouse Relief- Help for a helpless spouse

If you find yourself in a position where your spouse is telling you that the both of you owe money on taxes previously filed then you can breathe a sigh of relief if you had no working knowledge of anything associated with the mistakes that were made. Innocent Spouse Relief is a life preserver created by our federal government that will allow you to avoid liability for taxes, penalties and interest owed due to errors on tax filings. In order to meet the requirements of this law and avoid responsibility you must show:

  1. That you filed jointly with your spouse on the return in the taxable year in which you are seeking relief
  2. That your spouse is the only one responsible for the mistake made on the tax return that led to the additional amounts owed
  3. That you had no reason to know, nor did you have any opportunity to find out, that the amount stated on your tax filings was insufficient or undervalued to what the actual total should have been
  4. With the circumstances and facts being what they are, it would be unfair to hold you accountable for the penalties, interest and future tax burden that comes with understating your current tax liability
  5. You must bring challenge any attempts to collect money within two years of the first collection opportunity

For those of you who bury your heads in your hands every April, you can take heart in the fact that the government has shown good judgment in at least one area of operation. While taking advantage of Innocent Spouse Relief does not guarantee you that your liability will be wiped clean it does present you a chance to move forward unscathed by a mistake from a person who is very nearly your ex spouse. It is nonetheless smart to become involved in the preparation and filing of your taxes even as divorce is on the horizon.

The more you become involved, the less likely there is to be a mistake made and the lower the likelihood of needing to take advantage of Innocent Spouse Relief.

Questions about Taxes and Divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

From Baytown to The Woodlands and all points in between the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC strives to provide quality representation to clients across southeast Texas. To learn more about our office and the services that we can provide you and your family please contact us today. A free of charge consultation where your questions can be answered is only a phone call away.


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  10. 6 things You Need to Know Before You File for Divorce in Texas
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Spring, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Spring, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Spring TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.


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