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Can an inmate file a tax return

Smyrna, GA |

Can an inmate file a tax return while being in prison? She has a job within the prison and heard about filing a income tax. Is this illegal? And would a family member be able to cash the check if she gives them POA?

Attorney Answers 3


Nothing comes to mind to prevent that person to file a return. In fact if their income exceed certain requirements, they must file a federal return. As to the POA, that would allow a check to be cashed but the POA holder may need to keep the check in account for the benefit of the prisoner. However, if the prisoner wants to make a gift he has the power to do so. However, you need to check with an estates/tax attorney in the state of incarceration to be sure about all this.

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From a strictly legal perspective, an inmate has an obligation to file a tax return if their income is above the filing threshold (around $12,000 if I recall correctly). As a practical matter, however, most inmates likely do not file income tax returns and I haven't come across many IRS audits of inmates. That being said, if the inmate expects to be freed from prison soon and expects a steady stream of income in the future, then he or she should file with the expectation of earning more income in the future.

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It is unlikely that a job in prison would derive sufficient income to file a tax return. However, if there is a return to be filed there is no law against it. The inmate can endorse the check and sign the return just as easily as signing a POA.

Any individual seeking legal advice for their own situation should retain their own legal counsel as this response provides information that is general in nature and not specific to any person's unique situation. Circular 230 Disclaimer - Advice given in this response cannot be used to eliminate penalties with the IRS or any other governmental agency.

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