Going through a divorce can present some unique challenges for couples looking to dissolve their marriage. One of the challenges that is often unexpected is the filing of a joint tax return while going through the divorce process.
If you and your spouse are planning to file a joint tax return, here are three things that you need to keep in mind to protect yourself from liability in the event the information contained within the tax return proves to be incorrect.
1. Ask to see documentation before signing a joint tax return.
Before you agree to sign a joint tax return that your soon-to-be-ex spouse has prepared, you need to ensure that you review all of the documentation used to prepare the tax return. This documentation can include income statements and receipts for each itemized deduction.
Look for any discrepancies (like income you know your spouse received that has not been listed on the tax return) and refuse to sign until these discrepancies have been resolved.
2. Opt to pay for a professional's help.
Even though some married couples prefer to prepare their own tax returns, you may want to consider investing in the help of a professional when you are filing a joint tax return as you go through a divorce.
By leaving the preparation of tax documents to a neutral third party professional, you eliminate the potential for your spouse to alter these documents prior to your signing. Not only will having a professional prepare your joint tax return help you avoid trouble with the IRS, it will ensure that the court has access to accurate financial records in order to set valid alimony or child support payments that must be paid once your divorce has been completed.
3. Have your attorney prepare an indemnification agreement.
If you are worried that your spouse may intentionally make a mistake when preparing a joint tax return in order to punish you as you go through a divorce, it can be beneficial to have your attorney, such as Gomez May LLP, prepare an indemnification agreement before you sign the joint return.
An indemnification agreement is signed by the spouse responsible for preparing the joint return, and this document states that the tax-preparing spouse will be responsible for paying any tax assessments or collection fees that arise as a result of mistakes contained within the tax return. Releasing yourself from future financial liability through an indemnification agreement can be a great way to protect yourself when filing a joint tax return during a divorce.
Being prepared to protect your financial welfare when you need to file a joint tax return during a divorce is important. Consider asking for copies of all tax documentation, hiring a professional to prepare your return, and having your spouse sign an indemnification agreement to prevent a joint tax return from causing your financial hardship once your marriage has been dissolved.