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Can you be held liable for an ex-spouse's tax issues?

Divorces have an unfortunate knack for uncovering deep dark secrets. It may be that substance abuse issues are discovered, illicit affairs are brought to light, and even sometimes odd fetishes are found out. With this in mind, it may come to light that your spouse has not only been cheating on your for years, he or she may have been cheating the IRS. The worst part, the government could hold you liable when they catch up to your soon-to-be ex.

This is because under federal law, spouses can be held jointly liable because it is assumed that they both approve (or at least have knowledge of) the facts set forth in a tax return when they sign and file it with the federal government. This assumption works even if one spouse had little, if anything, to do with the composition of the return. 

If you are caught up in charges of tax evasion or tax fraud, you may be able to apply the “innocent spouse” defense. Essentially, the defense means that they were not involved in the preparation of a joint tax return, so they should not be held liable for the actions of a spouse who knowingly provided false information.

Through this defense, an innocent spouse can claim that they had no reason to dispute the numbers provided, that they could not dispute them (because they were not privy to information about income, deductions or expenses), or that they were in abusive relationships where questions about misleading or false information could lead to retribution.

If you have further questions about tax liability to a divorcing spouse, an experienced lawyer can help. 

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