Skip to Content

Tax Season 101: Is Your (Former) Spouse Actually Paying Taxes?


Here’s a hypothetical based in reality: three years ago you were going through a divorce. Your former spouse (who was also the primary breadwinner at the time) had their accountant give you paperwork to sign that said you acknowledge that all taxes from the previous fiscal year would be paid by your former spouse. You happily signed that document, relieved that you saved some money at a time when finances were so tight.

It’s now three years later. You’ve been divorced for two-and-a-half blissful years. You’re at your local bank making a withdrawal from your primary bank account which has five thousand dollars in it. The teller says you can’t make the withdrawal because your account has a lien on it. You call the national office of your bank to find out that the IRS has placed a lien on your account due to unpaid taxes the year you completed your divorce.

You find out that your former spouse is completely financially insolvent. You and you alone are responsible for the unpaid taxes that now add up to more than twenty thousand dollars. Technically, you were married three years ago and are therefore responsible for all of the unpaid taxes because you filed a joint tax return with your former spouse.

This story is, of course, fictional but lately I have been getting a slew of similar phone calls from divorcees who have been misled by their former spouse and who are now thousands of dollars in debt to the IRS.

In the previous hypothetical scenario if the innocent spouse had sought out and received adequate legal counsel after learning of the IRS tax lien, they would have learned that they could qualify for tax relief due to the IRS Innocent Spouse rule.

If you think your spouse is involved in wrongdoing and it might make you liable or if you simply feel that your spouse has a lousy accountant who is exposing you to significant tax penalties—it’s important that you seek out legal counsel who can help you sort out these issues. You don’t need to file for divorce or be engaged in a divorce to seek out legal counsel—you can do it within the confines of a perfectly healthy marriage and with the knowledge of your spouse.

Don’t take any chances with your taxes or the IRS. Seek out legal counsel to prevent even the slightest chance of a tax lien or stiff penalties.

If you have any questions about your taxes as it related to your current or former marriage,please feel free to contact us, and I’d be happy to advise you on the outcome you are looking for. I’m Lois Brenner and I will always help you achieve the future you deserve.