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Can I get in trouble for filing IRS tax returns as single when married? Is that considered Fraud?

Oxnard, CA |

My husband and I have lived separated since we got married. He passed away and now I found that he had been filing single on his tax returns. I haven't worked he was supporting me. Could I get in trouble for the way he filed his tax returns?

Attorney Answers 5


  1. Best answer

    Intentionally filing using the wrong status is illegal and could be considered tax fraud/evasion. However, your situation seems a little different. You both should have filed a joint return or married filing separately. Since he filed a separate return which you were not on, you should have no liability. If something does arise, you should look into innocent spouse relief.

    This answer does not establish an attorney-client relationship, Moreover, this attorney is Licensed to practiced law ONLY in LOUISIANA and answers to questions from other jurisdictions or states are meant to provide only general information. Users should contact a local attorney in their jurisdiction or state.


  2. If you have been separated and filing individually then that is not probably not going to give rise to the IRS taking actions against you and claiming fraud. The actions you took likely did nothing to help you financially game the tax system which is what the IRS usually looks for in fraud situations. Additionally, filing as single you usually pay more taxes, and the IRS typically hits you with penalties on the amounts you underpaid. The way he filed his returns, especially since you were separated and if you did not sign the returns he filed, should almost definitely get you innocent spouse relief in the event the IRS tried to pursue you for some reason.

    This answer is based on general legal principles only and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. This answer is for informational purposes only and does not constitute the formation of a lawyer-client relationship. Any reader of this answer should not make decisions based upon in without first directly consulting with an attorney


  3. You cannot get into trouble for the way your deceased husband filed since you did not sign the returns. He should have filed married filing separate.

    This answer is based on general legal principles only and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. This answer is for informational purposes only and does not constitute the formation of a lawyer-client relationship. Any reader of this answer should not make decisions based upon in without first directly consulting with an attorney


  4. You ought to look into filing amended returns (1040X) for the sole purpose of changing the filing status to married filing jointly and getting a refund from the government. The downside of doing this is that it would potentially make you liable if he committed fraud on his return by failing to report income or taking deductions he wasn't entitled to. Discuss this with a tax attorney and/or a CPA


  5. As the other attorneys have mentioned, you cannot be held responsible for your husband's erroneous filing of returns claiming "single" filing status. However, due to the income attribution feature of California community property laws, you were required to file your own tax returns, separately reporting your 50% community interest in your husband's earnings and income. However, it sounds like you may have a viable claim for innocent spouse relief under IRC Section 66, since you failed to include items of community income on your tax returns. For that matter, you did not even file tax returns! To claim innocent spouse relief, you may be required to file income tax returns for the last 6 years as a married person filing separately.

    You will need to consult with an experienced tax attorney or CPA as to exactly how you should file those returns. For example, the tax professional could advise you to report your 50% community property interest in your husband's earnings as income on your tax returns and then "back out" those amounts on the ground that you have $0 tax liability because you're an innocent spouse under IRC Section 66. Alternatively, you could report your income and your tax liability as $0 on your tax return but the IRS could construe such a "zero" return as a form of tax protest activity.

    This is something that you definitely should not do on your own. You need a highly competent tax professional (preferably an attorney) to assist you in this matter. Good luck!

    The answer to this question does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Moreover, this attorney is licensed to practiced law ONLY in the State of California. Answers to questions from users in other jurisdictions or states are meant to provide only general information. Users should contact a local attorney in their jurisdiction or state to address their specific tax issue.