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Can I Make My Spouse File A Joint Tax Return?

By David L. Duff of Duff & Kronfeld, P.C. posted in Family Law on Thursday, March 10, 2016.

Under the current tax laws of our county, if two individuals are still legally married, albeit living separate and apart from each other, as of the last day in any calendar year (i.e., December 31), then they retain the right to file a joint income tax return for that particular year. Filing their tax return in a “married filing jointly” allows these individuals to enjoy the benefit of being taxed at the lowest possible tax rate.

Since Rule #1 in the annual filing of tax returns should always be: “Pay Uncle Sam as little as legitimately possible in taxes”, the above procedure should be a “no-brainer”. However, during the heat of separation and divorce, when emotional responses often override logical ones, it is quite common for one spouse to refuse to sign a joint tax return with the other spouse. When this situation occurs, both spouses are then left with no alternative but to file their respective tax returns in a “married filing separately” status – which throws both of them into the highest tax rate.

Unfortunately, tax laws and IRS regulations do not provide any method whereby one spouse can force the recalcitrant spouse to file a joint tax return, and thereby pay a lesser amount of taxes on their incomes. The only hope for any type of relief would have to occur at the final divorce hearing, when the presiding judge will learn of one spouse’s refusal to file a joint tax return, thereby causing the other spouse to pay additional, and unnecessary, taxes. In such circumstances, the judge often finds a way to financially “punish” the unreasonable spouse.

If you find yourself in a divorce situation, and require assistance, call one of the attorneys at The Duff Law Firm for a complimentary 30-minute consultation. (703) 591-7475.

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