Money is often a major reason for relationship failures. Beginning your new life of financial independence can be a huge step for many people—and a huge source of relief. But, for many individuals who finalize their divorce, the journey is not complete yet.
Very few couples time their divorce based on tax seasons. Instead, months later, they realize that they still have tax obligations from their marriage. This can lead to a serious financial dilemma. Even if they choose to file on their own for the past year, they may face consequences for their ex’s taxes.
Your first choice is whether or not to file jointly
For many, the decision to file your taxes jointly or not can seem like an intuitive one. You and your former spouse are no longer together, and so it seems logical to file separately. But, filing jointly has its advantages. The IRS holds you and your ex jointly responsible for the taxes incurred during your marriage, whether you are still married or not. By filing jointly, you may have more insight into that burden and be better equipped to manage any expenses.
Filing separately, however, may preserve your position in the case of tax fraud or an unexpected addition to your tax bill. Innocent spouse relief provisions may allow you to make a claim that you did not know and could not have known about issues like unreported or hidden income, tax evasion or another legal issue. These cases are lengthy, but under certain circumstances may be a preferred option.
Making wise decisions is not easy
The Tax Code, both state and federal, is notoriously complex. Unless you are incredibly familiar with the code itself, it is probably best to find an attorney, CPA or accountant to review your situation and offer advice. Because a mistake today impacts your finances and future, a thorough review is the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success.