If My Spouse Filed Our Taxes Jointly Without My Knowledge, What Can I Do?

Written by James Hirby | Fact checked by The Law Dictionary staff |  

Like many aspects of a long marriage, tax issues can cause serious disagreements. In some cases, they can even lead to divorce. If you believe that the tax-related problems that you're having with your spouse are part of deeper-seated issue that may ultimately threaten your marriage, you may wish to speak with a marriage counselor or therapist. While it's important that you recover any refund to which you're entitled, it's equally important that you assess the condition of your marriage. By leaving such problems untreated, you may be inviting an even bigger dust-up in the near future.

Generally speaking, an individual may not file a joint tax return without the consent of his or her marital partner. Although this problem occurs relatively infrequently, it technically constitutes a crime. Since filing joint taxes entitles a couple to a larger tax return, the IRS will automatically deem your non-consensual joint tax return to be fraudulent. If your spouse intentionally filed such a return, he or she may be subject to substantial financial penalties. Depending upon the circumstances of the situation, he or she could even face jail time.

Happily-married couples rarely file non-consensual joint tax returns. As such, this situation usually arises in the course of a messy divorce. If this is the case, you may be able to seek recourse through the family court that's handling your divorce. After all, your spouse will have to commit at least two crimes in order to obtain the joint refund to which you're both entitled. First, he or she will need to file a fraudulent joint tax return. Secondly, he or she will need to forge your signature on the refund check in order to cash or deposit it. Since it will be easy to prove to your family court's judge that these crimes were committed, you'll probably be able to recover your portion of the refund without much trouble.

Your spouse's actions might also affect his or her material standing in the divorce case. Although it would be mean-spirited to do so, you'd have every right to report your spouse's actions to the IRS. You can do this by calling the IRS and directly reporting the fraudulent return. However, there's no guarantee that the agency will take action on your complaint. Alternatively, you can file your own separate tax return and force the IRS to audit your finances. Once an agent has reviewed your tax documents, it will be obvious that your spouse committed fraud.

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