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San Jose, CA 95128

Is Innocent Spouse Relief Available if a Person Did Not Sign a Joint Tax Return?

 Posted on February 22, 2022 in Taxation Law

b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_446728771_20220222-223216_1.jpgThere are a variety of situations where taxpayers may need to respond to claims that they owe taxes to the IRS. In some cases, different forms of relief may be available that will absolve a person of their tax debts or allow them to reduce the amount they owe. Some taxpayers may be able to ask for innocent spouse relief, including when the IRS seeks to recover tax debts from a person after their divorce based on an audit of a joint tax return filed while they were married. A person may believe that they will qualify for innocent spouse relief if they had not signed a joint tax return, but they will need to understand how the IRS will address this issue.

The Tacit Consent Doctrine

Married couples will often divide different types of responsibilities, and one spouse may primarily handle matters related to a couple’s finances, including preparing and filing joint tax returns. In these situations, the other spouse may not have a full understanding of the income and assets that have been reported to the IRS, the types of deductions and credits that have been claimed, or other issues that affect the taxes they have paid or the refunds they have received.

If a spouse was not involved in preparing or filing taxes, they may not be aware of potential tax debts or penalties. In some cases, a person may not have actually signed a joint tax return, or their spouse or another party may have signed their name on tax forms for them with the intent of streamlining the tax filing process. However, even if a person had not signed a tax return or was unaware of what was being filed, the IRS may still find that they are liable for tax debts based on what is known as the “tacit consent doctrine.”

The IRS may determine that a person gave implied consent to a tax return even if they did not sign the forms or provide explicit approval. When determining whether tacit consent applies, the IRS may look at issues such as:

  • Whether a person was required to file taxes in a certain year.

  • Whether a person filed a separate tax return using the status of Married Filing Separately.

  • The person’s filing status in previous years, including whether they had filed joint tax returns with their spouse.

  • Whether a person provided information used when filing a joint tax return, such as W-2 forms.

  • Whether a couple was able to realize benefits from filing taxes jointly, such as larger tax deductions for charitable contributions.

In cases where the IRS determines that a person gave tacit consent to a joint tax return, they may still be eligible for innocent spouse relief. This form of relief is available in cases where a person can show that they did not know or could not have reasonably known about errors made by their spouse on a joint tax return.

Contact Our San Jose Innocent Spouse Tax Relief Attorney

If you need to deal with tax debts or penalties related to a joint tax return filed with your spouse, John D. Teter Law Offices can help you determine whether you qualify for innocent spouse relief. We will work to make sure you will not be held responsible for your spouse’s actions, and we will help you find solutions that will allow you to minimize the financial impact of your tax issues. Contact our San Jose tax audit lawyer at 408-866-1810 to arrange a consultation and discuss your tax-related concerns.


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