Really Innocent Spouse

Today TaxMama hears from Fred in the TaxQuips Forum, with this problem. “My ex-wife and I were legally divorced in Sept. 2008.  For the tax year 2008, she filed as married, filing jointly.  She withdrew her entire 401(k) fund and was penalized for early withdrawal.  She now owes the IRS over $10,000. Because she filed as married, they are coming after me for the tax burden. What can I do?”

Dear Fred,

The first question is – Did YOU file a tax return for 2008? You don’t mention providing any copies of that. That may be your problem.

1) However, if you filed as single, then IRS has no business coming after you.

2) If you did not sign her joint tax return, then her tax return is fraudulent, and it’s a forgery. (That’s a criminal offense.) Ask IRS for a copy of the return – and insist on having them show you where you signed it.

To answer your question about hiring an attorney – Nope. You don’t need to hire and pay anyone for this. Call the Taxpayers Advocate Service. They can help you straighten this out – for free! This is exactly the kind of run-around, they were created to fix.

And remember, you can find answers to all kinds of questions about forgery, IRS obtuseness, and other tax issues, free. Where? Where else? At

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2 thoughts on “Really Innocent Spouse

  1. TaxMama says:

    Hi Tom

    That’s a good point.
    Tax preparers are required to keep the signed Form 8879 for 3 years.

    The audit or collections action should take place within that time frame or it’s outside of the statute of limitations.

    Naturally, if you are not the person who prepared or signed the Form 8879 (or the related tax return), because someone else forged your signature, you would not be requesting your copy of the Form 8879.


  2. tom gordon says:

    One catch I have run into recently on whether or not return was signed by “innocent spouse” is, if they filed electronically there is no record of who, if anyone, signed the return. Form 8879 was shredded by preparer 3 years and 1 day after it was filed. Of course this goes for the need to verify signature on any e-filed return. So a suggestion for everyone in the future is to request copy of signed Form 8879 and keep in your files.

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