Spouse Refuses To Sign Tax Return: What Can You Do?

Author: Miod & Company
Date: April 7, 2022
Category: Tax
Average Time Reading: 4 minutes

Taxes are a part of life and sometimes a little more complex than expected. When planning out your yearly taxes, it’s important to stay organized, keep it accurate, and know your filing status. Filing a tax return is the responsibility of both parties involved in the marriage

When filing as a married couple, you’d think filing a joint tax return would be a smooth operation. However, divorces can complicate more than a few aspects of your life, including taxes. 

Here’s what you should know about joint tax returns and how to solve a problem with an ex-spouse refusing to sign. 

Tax Returns As a Couple

When filing your taxes, the first step is deciding what status is right for you. It’s common to assume that single individuals will file as single and married couples as married filing jointly.

Married couples can also file separately if it benefits one or both spouses, such as lower tax brackets. “What’s mine is yours” can include residences, bank accounts, retirement plans, and even tax liabilities.

Separated spouses will be shocked if one refuses to sign their joint tax return. The IRS requires both spouses to provide a signature on their joint return, whether they’re “together.” 

Here’s what to expect when you file a joint tax return:

  • You only have to turn in one tax return each year
  • Income and all other reported tax documents become tied to both spouses
  • Any tax fraud or cheating of taxes applies to both, not just the perpetrator
  • If one spouse earns a significantly higher income, jointly filing can lower their tax bracket
  • If earning about the same income, it may not be all that advantageous
  • You may lose some of the tax credits and deductions you received when filing separately

Once you and your partner pool everything together, their tax problems are your tax problems. Your combined tax liability isn’t always a bad thing; it can help keep all of your tax responsibilities in one place.

When going through a separation, that might not be what you want to hear. You’ll have trouble filing if your ex-spouse tries to defraud you or refuses to sign your taxes.

Without both signatures, the IRS will consider the joint tax return invalid. Your return will take longer to process and be deposited in your account until both signatures are present. 

You may even face fines or penalties for your spouse’s misdeeds. So what can you do to avoid legal consequences resulting from your spouse’s actions?

What to Do With Incomplete Form the 1040s

If your ex-spouse refuses to sign your joint return, you may need to use a married filing separately or a head of household return instead. Whether or not your spouse decides to file is no longer your concern when your tax liability remains separate. 

Filing as head of the household is an option only available to those who are considered unmarried except in the eyes of the law. In addition, you must reside in a separate household for at least six months of the tax year. 

If you have children, at least one child must reside with you under eligible dependency for over half the year. You can’t file as head of household unless you meet at least half of your child’s financial needs.

As we’ve touched on the importance of both signatures on the return, a loophole exists that you should be aware of. If a spouse is required to sign for the other, acting as an agent of their partner, they are allowed to step in.

Another instance is if your spouse is battling a severe illness or injury, you can sign their signature for them with their oral (and documented) consent. No matter the situation, it must be accompanied by an explanation and attached to the completed return.

Note: You or your spouse should never forge each other’s signature without consent or lie on any other return aspect. When the IRS finds out about your committed forgery, you’ll have to pay the consequences, from fines and interest penalties to even jail time.

If you’re worried about your spouse working against you on your tax return, it may be time to start filing separately. Though you may fall short of a tax credit, your tax liability will remain out of reach of your spouse’s own decisions.

The longer it takes for your partner to comply, the longer it’ll take to reap any benefits or in place, and the faster you’ll pay the penalties.

How to Get Started

Taxes are nothing to be afraid of but can be challenging from time to time. It’s essential to fill out your tax return every year to stay on good terms with the IRS and/or get the benefits you deserve.

Filing taxes with a soon-to-be-ex-spouse may not be that difficult for some couples, but that’s not always the case. If your partner is giving you a hard time or you suspect they will, it’s time to reach out to an expert willing to help.

Here at Miod and Company, we are here for you!

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