In 2011 I was legally separated from my wife (we did not get officially divorced until 9/2012). I believe I filed 2011 taxes as single. However, during the preliminary divorce hearing the court ordered that I had to split the tax return with her. So, I split half of the 2011 taxes with her. I just got a bill from the IRS saying that some calculations are off and I owed $2,000. Technically, if there was no error I would have gotten $2,000 less back on my taxes for 2011; meaning she would have gotten less also. Should she have to split this payment with me? Thanks in advance for any advice.
As I think I understand your question, you say you were legally separated in 2011, that would mean living under a legal degree of separation. That would permit you to file your tax return as a "single" person. Then during the property settlement proceedings prior to your final order, you were ordered to split the refund you got with her. As a matter of Federal Income Tax law, that the subsequent adjustment of your return is your liability, not hers. As to whether or not she should contribute, that is a matter of the wording of your settlement agreement and final order. You should have your divorce attorney review the situation in light of those documents. My assumption is that the division of the refund had nothing to do with tax obligations of you and her, but everything to do with the division of what were perceived at the time to be your marital assets. As a matter of equity, I think she should share the expense, but as to whether you can compel her to is another matter. Good luck.
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As far as the IRS is concerned if you did not file a joint return, you are the only one responsible. You cannot file as single if you were not divorced. You should double check your return to ensure that you filed married filing separately or as head of household, if you qualified. This may be part of the reason that you were audited and owe more, but you should double check.
As far as whether she should pay half under your divorce agreement, it should say in the agreement. If you are not sure, check with your divorce attorney.
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Agree with my colleagues here. And there's a chance you'll not be liable for the entire amount but if you filed single in that year, it's going to be your bill entirely. Get with good tax counsel to help sort it out and you may need to obtain the assistance of your divorce attorney again as well. Looking at the costs for all those things, you may just be better off taking care of the tax bill if your ex isn't willing to work with you.
Evan A. Nielsen is licensed to practice law in California and handles federal tax matters throughout the U.S. The information provided here is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice for a particular matter. This response does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult an attorney.
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