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My soon to be ex husband filed our '11 return w/o my knowledge and forged my signature. We live in FL - what are my options?

Fort Myers, FL |
Filed under: Divorce

We are getting divorced and he filed the '11 return and "cut and pasted" my signature. The IRS returned the entire file asking for original signatures. Then he filed electronically w/o my knowledge (or the attorneys knowledge). We owed a substantial amount of money, which has been paid, but I am still considering turning him in to the IRS. What will happen in this situation? I have always signed the return - and I had accountants review it and they were satisfied with the return, but I don't want to be liable for any future problems the IRS may find.

Attorney Answers 3


It's hard to completely understand what you are asking but I will try answering. If the returns were correct, then I'm not sure why you would want to contact the IRS and turn him in. There's no damage to you other than the loss of an opportunity to file at the less favorable tax status of married filing separate. However, if in the future there is a problem with the return, you should consider filing for innocent spouse relief.

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I am not licensed in FL, so there may be issues that other attorneys would be in a better position to discuss. With that in mind, I can offer a couple of thoughts.....

If you go to the IRS and say that your signature on the tax return was not valid and that you did not sign (nor give your soon-to-be ex permission to sign for you), then there is the potential that the tax return will not be accepted as a valid return. Basically, you are saying you did not sign it under penalties or perjury, and it is a joint flag. Did your actual tax cost benefit from the joint filing, or would you have paid less filing separately?

If all taxes under the jointly filed return were appropriate and paid, then I suggest doing nothing for now as far as the taxes are concerned (it could open the return to potential examination). You were wise to have accountants review the return and make sure you are not potentially liable for additional tax. Following that, you should document everything in case the situation changes.

For the divorce, you should raise this issue with your lawyer, but I would be very cautious in saying a filed return was not valid when you have no objection to the actual taxes paid.

This answer or response should not be considered legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have further questions, I would be glad to discuss your situation further. I can be reached at US - (801) 746-6300, or online at --

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First, I'm sorry to hear of this, which is undoubtedly causing you some distress. I agree with my colleagues in that I think your first step is indeed to contact the IRS, or have a tax professional contact them, and let them know that your signature is invalid. The IRS doesn't want forged documents running around anymore than you do. Your husband should know, or care, that the return is signed under penalties of perjury as well. The Service is paying more attention these days to duress-type situations. If you are able to do this then you would file an married filing individually return for that year (I assume the divorce is not yet final).

Let's assume that you're not able to work it out, however, and the return is accepted as valid with you being jointly and severally liable for the full amount. If that is the case you might qualify for one of the "spousal" remedies: injured spouse, innocent spouse, allocation of liability or equitable relief. Which of these might apply depends in large part on whether there was an item of income that you did not know about or benefit from (such as if your husband opened an IRA in your name, lost money gambling without your knowledge, etc). It also depends upon whether there was under-reported income (i.e. he didn't put down the hidden income or loss), or underpaid tax (i.e. everything was basically correct but you didn't pay all of the tax).

These would be issues to look at in the event you are unsuccessful in straightening it out at this point. As a tax attorney in Naples and Fort Myers, Florida I would be pleased to advise you if this is the case. Hope this helps!

Ari Good, Esq. is licensed to practice law only in Florida, Illinois (inactive) and Washington, DC (inactive). Good Attorneys At Law maintains offices in Naples, Florida. The foregoing answer is for informational / educational purposes only: NOTHING IN THE FOREGOING ANSWER MAY BE INTERPRETED AS FORMING AN ATTORNEY CLIENT RELATIONSHIP NOR DOES IT CONSTITUTE TAX OR LEGAL ADVICE. Pursuant to Circular 230, nothing in the foregoing answer may be used for the purpose of avoiding penalties.

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