May 01, 2015

Is Your Client an Innocent Spouse?

You suspect your client’s spouse is not paying her or his taxes, filing erroneous returns, or worse—intentionally evading taxes. Is your client innocent? Maybe not, but perhaps she or he is an “innocent spouse.”

Liability for Income Taxes

Generally, spouses are jointly and severally liable for income taxes due on a jointly filed income tax return. A common situation that occurs is one in which a married spouse,[1] your client, is a stay-at-home parent. Your client may have been able to access money for household expenses; but she or he was earning little or no income.

Your client’s spouse had one or more separate bank accounts, and your client had no knowledge that income was underreported or that taxes were not being paid. Perhaps your client was in an abusive relationship. These are all factors to keep in mind when there are outstanding tax liabilities in connection with a joint income tax return…

Click here for the full text. This article was written for Contra Costa Lawyer, a publication of the Contra Costa Bar Association.