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I've been filing married jointly the last 6 years. This year, things are contentious with my wife, and I don't believe she will sign the IRS form.

I am the sole breadwinner. Do I need her signature to file jointly? Or is there a workaround.

One possibility is filing electronically as signatures do not seem to be required at all, but I'm not sure that's proper. I expect she will want to see the return at some point, and I don't want to click some sort of box that says she agrees when she plainly doesn't.

I expect married filing separately will cost me a few thousand dollars, so I'd prefer joint if I could.
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I expect married filing separately will cost me a few thousand dollars, so I'd prefer joint if I could.

File for an extension and show her what it'll cost her?
You have until Oct. to file with an extension...
(still would need to pay any taxes due now, but if she's likely to change her mind, that'd give you some time.)

Of course I don't think that I'd want to file joint with someone who's refusing to do it... Do they have income they aren't telling you? Income from a savings account that they don't want to show you?
Something worse?
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I've been filing married jointly the last 6 years. This year, things are contentious with my wife, and I don't believe she will sign the IRS form.

I am the sole breadwinner. Do I need her signature to file jointly?


Yes

Or is there a workaround.

No

Don't even think about faking her acquiescence, on paper or electronically. The trouble she could cause you ain't worth it.

Phil
Rule Your Retirement Home Fool
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Is she refusing to sign because she thinks you've done something illegal, because she's done something illegal, or just to be cantankerous? If the first, she's right and should file seperately to protect herself. If the second, you should file seperately to protect yourself even if it costs more. If the third, give her the option of filing seperately and show her how much more that's going to cost. As Phil said, do not sign for her.
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I expect she will want to see the return at some point,

Noone should sign a return they haven't seen.
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Noone should sign a return they haven't seen.

Tell that to my wife....I have yet to successfully get her to look at a tax return, lol...
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Noone should sign a return they haven't seen.

Tell that to my wife....I have yet to successfully get her to look at a tax return, lol...


Clearly, the OPs wife is concerned about something. We don't know if the source of the concern is real or not. I would be seeing a divorce lawyer if my husband tried to forge my signature and file a tax return behind my back.

My husband doesn't look at our tax returns. I am concerned if something happened to me that he isn't capable of handling our finances.

My SIL was left with a large mess because her now deceased husband didn't allow her to see tax returns and mortgages paperwork. If she had read and understood them, she would not have signed them. I was seriously concerned that the mortgage holder might have persued fraud charges.

Neither have recovered from their father's abuse that they were financially incompetent. The constant repeating that only he was capable of handling everyone's finances has had lifelong consequences. My FIL expected to run our finances. There was always tension that I didn't permit my FIL to have any information regarding our finances. Unlike his some of my husband's adult siblings, we weren't financially dependent, and I would not tolerate any interference.
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Clearly, the OPs wife is concerned about something. We don't know if the source of the concern is real or not
===========================
Well, there's a couple of possibilities:

#1-MAYBE she's really concerned about something.
#2-MAYBE she's just being a spiteful b!tc# about things. The OP states he is the sole breadwinner, and maybe she just doesn't care, as it doesn't cost her any of her own money.

I've seen both cases, plenty of times.

IF #1 is the case, it's high time to get straight with things.

IF #2 is the case, then two can play that game. Show her what the difference in tax is going to be, and make that her responsiblity.
Don't let her have the checkbook, take away her credit/debit cards, or maybe cut some of her discretionary budget.

Bill
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Thanks for the advice. No, there's nothing to hide. She's cantankerous, and a continuance of the marriage is looking unlikely. She recently raided my checking account (she had access for emergencies) to the tune of $20k and she's hidden my laptop. So I'm earning all the money, paying all the bills, and accepting the abuse for now.

She's going to want something in exchange for her signature, and it's probably not worth it. I'm estimating may $8k extra tax to file separately, but filing joint means she'll probably want the entire $8k in exchange. I just wondered if I'm doing all the earning and the supporting whether her signature was really required. Sounds like it is, dagnabbit.
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IF #2 is the case, then two can play that game. Show her what the difference in tax is going to be, and make that her responsiblity.
Don't let her have the checkbook, take away her credit/debit cards, or maybe cut some of her discretionary budget.

Bill


This isn't productive, and is just another step closer to divorce. If #2 is the case, they need to work on the underlying issues. Pulling the I'm the breadwinner and you will obey me isn't a winning hand.
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She recently raided my checking account (she had access for emergencies) to the tune of $20k and she's hidden my laptop.

I'm sorry. Your situation doesn't sound pleasant.
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File separately and let her clean up her own mess and file for herself. So what if it costs more?

Give her a deadline to sign. Tell her what it will cost not to sign - and if she doesn't sign, then file separately. No payments to her for signing either way. No forging signatures (which is a federal crime).
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File separately and let her clean up her own mess and file for herself. So what if it costs more?

Give her a deadline to sign Tell her what it will cost not to sign - and if she doesn't sign, then file separately. No payments to her for signing either way. No forging signatures (which is a federal crime).

================================
The problem with that is that if she has no income, as stated,
1. She has no mess to clean up,
2. She has no requirement to file a return on a separate basis, nor can she be compelled to sign a joint return. A joint return is an election made by both spouses. And it's an irrevocable election, which is why you can amend returns to file jointly, but not amend to file separately if you'v already filed a joint return.

So the OP has relatively little leverage without being a hard@$$.

Bill
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So the OP has relatively little leverage without being a hard@$$.
I don't think that's effective leverage... I doubt escalating the confrontation would be a useful method.

I still think file for an extension now (easy to do, costs you nothing, just have to have your taxes paid by April 15)
I'd show the spouse what the difference is in how much the IRS gets.
("Here's what we have to pay the IRS if you sign, here's what we have to pay if you don't." notice it's phrased as "we", not "I")
I'd offer to go to a tax preparer if she will sign what the tax preparer does.
($500 in tax preparation to get $8K lower taxes sounds like a good deal to me. Even if it costs $1K or $2K you'd still be ahead...)

If she can't be convinced in 6 months, then probably by that time you're getting a divorce anyhow, and maybe she'll want to preserve more of the assets for the divorce settlement. (but I wouldn't count on that)
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I would be seeing a divorce lawyer if my husband tried to forge my signature and file a tax return behind my back.

My husband doesn't look at our tax returns.


Confused by these back to back statements in your post. How does your husband sign the returns if he never sees them?
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I would be seeing a divorce lawyer if my husband tried to forge my signature and file a tax return behind my back.

My husband doesn't look at our tax returns.
------------------------------------------------
Confused by these back to back statements in your post. How does your husband sign the returns if he never sees them?

-------------------------------------------------
She said he doesn't LOOK AT them. He takes his pen, signs his name, and hands the return back without reading ("looking at") it.


Bill
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She's cantankerous, and a continuance of the marriage is looking unlikely. She recently raided my checking account (she had access for emergencies) to the tune of $20k and she's hidden my laptop. So I'm earning all the money, paying all the bills, and accepting the abuse for now.

Condolences. I've been there (with smaller numbers) and it wasn't fun. I ended up with two tax returns to file during the divorce proceeding. The first one was stressful because I didn't think I could get her signature at a distance of 1200 miles even though she verbally agreed to a joint filing. I ended up filing that one electronically. Fortunately, she didn't back out of her verbal agreement. If I had to make that decision again today, I'd file MFS and pay the extra tax.

The second year was a no-brainer. We lived apart all year, I had custody of our daughter, and I filed HoH. Soon to be ex-wife would have been legally required to file MFS with a zero standard deduction, because I itemized; but filing as single would have raised no flags with the IRS because I filed HoH instead of MFS. I don't know how she actually filed, and that was Not My Problem.

She's going to want something in exchange for her signature, and it's probably not worth it. I'm estimating may $8k extra tax to file separately, but filing joint means she'll probably want the entire $8k in exchange.

Perhaps you can negotiate with her, perhaps you can't. If you can trust her to honor her word, it's worth attempting the negotiation. If you can't trust her to honor her word, the $8K extra tax is just one of many ways a divorce is expensive.

Patzer
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I would be seeing a divorce lawyer if my husband tried to forge my signature and file a tax return behind my back.

My husband doesn't look at our tax returns.

Confused by these back to back statements in your post. How does your husband sign the returns if he never sees them?


I have his permission to file tax returns. He SHOULD look at the tax returns. I am not attempting to hide them.
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Pulling the I'm the breadwinner and you will obey me isn't a winning hand.

That's putting it in an unfavorable light. I didn't "pull" that with her. I thought it was useful information to getting an accurate answer here.
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The problem with that is that if she has no income, as stated,
1. She has no mess to clean up,
2. She has no requirement to file a return on a separate basis, nor can she be compelled to sign a joint return. A joint return is an election made by both spouses. And it's an irrevocable election, which is why you can amend returns to file jointly, but not amend to file separately if you'v already filed a joint return.

So the OP has relatively little leverage without being a hard@$$.


Yup, sort of where I'm at. I'll ask her nicely if she'll sign a joint return. That gives her the opportunity first to do the right thing instead of me just making a unilateral decision. I expect she won't answer at all.

A clarification about your statement - I thought the filing status was irrevocable, but if I read your statement, it sounds like I can file separately and change it to joint later. I just can't file joint now and change it to separately later. Is that right?

If so, then that opens a solution. I'll file separately now, then immediately prepare an amendment to file jointly. If she signs that, great, and if she doesn't, I just throw it away, but at least my taxes are filed on time.
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"Pulling the I'm the breadwinner and you will obey me isn't a winning hand."

That's putting it in an unfavorable light. I didn't "pull" that with her.

It is unfavorable light - but it was intended as a response to the suggestion by another that you should use that tactic - not an assumption that you already had.

Good luck with your relationship and your taxes.
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If she signs that, great, and if she doesn't, I just throw it away, but at least my taxes are filed on time

I know I've said it before - but file for an extension.

Then "on time" is before October 15 - and probably that'll reduce the stress it seems that you're having about getting your taxes filed "on time".
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A clarification about your statement - I thought the filing status was irrevocable, but if I read your statement, it sounds like I can file separately and change it to joint later. I just can't file joint now and change it to separately later. Is that right?

Correct

If so, then that opens a solution. I'll file separately now, then immediately prepare an amendment to file jointly. If she signs that, great, and if she doesn't, I just throw it away, but at least my taxes are filed on time.

The extension route is better, paying the balance due with MFS with the extension. The reason this is better than the file and amend approach is that you'll get your refund a lot faster the other way if she does agree to sign a joint return.

Phil
Rule Your Retirement Home Fool
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One item I haven't seen addressed is community property issues. So far, everyone seems to be assuming you live in a separate property state.

However, if you're in a community property state, the assumption that all of the taxes are your problem on separate returns is probably wrong.

Do you happen to live in a community property state?

--Peter
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A clarification about your statement - I thought the filing status was irrevocable, but if I read your statement, it sounds like I can file separately and change it to joint later. I just can't file joint now and change it to separately later. Is that right?

Right. It's a one-way street. Actually, the IRS language on the face of the form (1040-X) says you can amend to file separately, up until the due date of the return, but not after. That's because an amended return filed before April 15 is considered to be the original return, superseding the prior version.

If so, then that opens a solution. I'll file separately now, then immediately prepare an amendment to file jointly. If she signs that, great, and if she doesn't, I just throw it away, but at least my taxes are filed on time.

Well, for one thing, an amended return presupposes that a separate return(s) have been filed. I have a huge prejudice against amended returns if I can help it. Why not prep. the joint return, and see if she'll sign it? If she does, case closed. If not, then you can do the separate return, and if time is running out, file an extension and pay whichever amount you think will likely apply. This gives time for her to change her mind without amending.

Bill
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However, if you're in a community property state, the assumption that all of the taxes are your problem on separate returns is probably wrong.

Since they're not yet divorced (and likely won't be before Oct.) it only affects whether that 8K will have gone to the IRS or be part of the assets to be divided in the divorce. And community property state or not, it'll still likely get divided between the two spouses.
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That's putting it in an unfavorable light. I didn't "pull" that with her. I thought it was useful information to getting an accurate answer here.

I was replying to the response that suggested that action. I didn't mean to imply that you had done it.
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Since they're not yet divorced (and likely won't be before Oct.) it only affects whether that 8K will have gone to the IRS or be part of the assets to be divided in the divorce.

Nope. That's separate property thinking.

In separate property states, his income is his and her income is hers. So if he is the sole earner, all of the income goes on his return and none on hers. So her standard deduction and personal exemption are wasted. In addition, the tax brackets are roughly 1/2 of those for married filing joint.

In a community property state, MFS returns typically split all of the income and deductions in half. (The exception would be income from any property that remains separate property. Notably, that does NOT include wages).

So there, her standard deduction and personal exemption are not wasted. And with 1/2 of the income on two returns taxed with brackets that are 1/2 of the size of joint filing brackets, you end up with taxes that are roughly the same total on the two separate returns as they would be on a single joint return.

And directly to your comment - with 1/2 of the tax and 1/2 of the withholding on each return, whatever balance is due would become 1/2 her problem. He could meet his tax obligation by filing a return and paying whatever he separately owed. The balance of the tax obligation would be hers and her problem.

With no income and no assets, that could become a significant problem for her. The IRS will generally not look to his income and assets to pay her taxes when they file separate returns.

--Peter
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And with 1/2 of the income on two returns taxed with brackets that are 1/2 of the size of joint filing brackets, you end up with taxes that are roughly the same total on the two separate returns as they would be on a single joint return.

I live in CA, so community property state. I have run the MFS vs. MFJ scenario a few times on my own taxes (the software asks a few questions, and I get the comparison). And while it's "roughly" the same, it's still a non-trivial $ amount that it would cost us to do MFS. Not $8K, but not $10 either.

I was assuming he was calculating the MFS return correctly... That could be a bad assumption - it's certainly something he should look at.

With no income and no assets, that could become a significant problem for her. The IRS will generally not look to his income and assets to pay her taxes when they file separate returns.
Prior to divorce, can't they go after any jointly held assets?
After divorce, I would expect she would have assets and/or alimony from the divorce settlement...
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...with 1/2 of the tax and 1/2 of the withholding on each return, whatever balance is due would become 1/2 her problem. He could meet his tax obligation by filing a return and paying whatever he separately owed. The balance of the tax obligation would be hers and her problem.

Which brings up a non-tax item: he should document all of his tax discussions (and her responses) he's having and has had with his wife. From a timing perspective, he's switching from MFJ to MFS right before divorcing (assuming he does divorce). The divorce court can get very interested in the switch and the timing since he didn't ever tell his wife (she could well claim) that he was making the switch--and so the court could conclude he made the switch out of spite and ding him accordingly.

As one of the TMFs often says, documentation matters.

Eric Hines
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Mentioned this thread to a friend. 3 years ago I was pressing her to file seperately. Her husband had been doing the returns and filing them without letting her see them for years. She'd discovered he was in trouble with IRS and had some kind of payment arrangement with them. While she respected my advice, it took a CPA she knew telling her if it was a matter of the extra taxes due when filing seperately, he would pay them for her but she must file seperately to get her to do it. Today she is very glad she did. Her husband recently admitted he has gone through his entire 401k (once near a million) and still owes the IRS. Apparently he made a series of bad investments and then made more bad investments trying to recover. Like OP, it's a marriage not likely to last much longer.
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I live in CA, so community property state. I have run the MFS vs. MFJ scenario a few times on my own taxes (the software asks a few questions, and I get the comparison). And while it's "roughly" the same, it's still a non-trivial $ amount that it would cost us to do MFS.

I suspect that you have some separate property involved OR you're making a mistake somewhere. Without separate property, everything in the community is split in half and the taxes should be within rounding errors of equal. As I think about it more, IRA contributions could be affected, too.

Prior to divorce, can't they go after any jointly held assets?

Sure. But all he'd have to do is change the title on bank and investment accounts to be in his name alone. Technically, they would remain community property. But from a practical standpoint, the IRS will probably not go after accounts titled in his name alone unless the dollars involved justify the additional legal support they'd need to go to show it's community money and not his separate property.

After divorce, I would expect she would have assets and/or alimony from the divorce settlement...

Sure. But divorce lawyers are notorious for ignoring tax implications of the various financial arrangements in a divorce. And divorce judges pretty much let people suffer the consequences of poor representation in that area.

--Peter
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She recently raided my checking account (she had access for emergencies) to the tune of $20k and she's hidden my laptop.

It sounds like she is moving some assets to her name in preparation for the marriage to break up.

Other than offering to use the refund for marriage counseling, I don't see much for alternatives.
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Do you happen to live in a community property state?

Yes, Texas. But if she will not sign, how do I use this information? I still end up filing separately if she won't sign joint.
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And directly to your comment - with 1/2 of the tax and 1/2 of the withholding on each return, whatever balance is due would become 1/2 her problem. He could meet his tax obligation by filing a return and paying whatever he separately owed. The balance of the tax obligation would be hers and her problem.

I like it. I'll file the extension for now, then prepare a joint return. And if she won't sign, this approach is a fall back.

I hope it won't come to that. While things have gotten really rough this year, I'm hoping that when she's faced with issues like this she'll finally consider counseling.
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Do you happen to live in a community property state?

Yes, Texas.


See Publication 555.

Phil
Rule Your Retirement Home Fool
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One possible thought. With only a 6 year marriage, the judge may not be overly generous on asset awards to the wife. And a lot of retirement income splits don't happen unless the marriage lasted 10 years during the time the retirement was earned - military retirement comes to mind in that category. Not an attorney, just been there and done that.
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Follow up: she surprised me by emailing me that she intends to file married filing separately. She asked for all her tax document, which basically consist of a few medical bills that won't be tax deductible, and a $100 gift the charity.

She has no income, so I'm not sure what she'll accomplish. She doesn't even have to file. My new question: if I'm the sole source of income, can I claim her as a dependent?
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Follow up: she surprised me by emailing me that she intends to file married filing separately. She asked for all her tax document, which basically consist of a few medical bills that won't be tax deductible, and a $100 gift the charity.

She has no income, so I'm not sure what she'll accomplish.


Maybe you'll understand better after you do your homework reading about community property in Pub 555. That will also give you a better understanding of what information she needs from you.

My new question: if I'm the sole source of income, can I claim her as a dependent?

No.

Phil
Rule Your Retirement Home Fool
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She has no income, so I'm not sure what she'll accomplish. She doesn't even have to file.

You're married.
You live in Texas (a community property state.)
You have income.

ergo
She has income to report if she does MFS.
At least that's what I took from Peter's post:

http://boards.fool.com/since-theyre-not-yet-divorced-and-lik...

She asked for all her tax document, which basically consist of a few medical bills that won't be tax deductible, and a $100 gift the charity.
I think it also includes a copy of your W2, and a copy of any other tax documents that you have been thinking of as "yours".
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She asked for all her tax document.... She has no income, so I'm not sure what she'll accomplish.

The cynic in me wonders if this is a move to put OP on record concerning what he says is the marriage's and his property and income preparatory to a divorce proceeding.

Eric Hines
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The cynic in me wonders if this is a move to put OP on record concerning what he says is the marriage's and his property and income preparatory to a divorce proceeding.

The practical person in me says that if one is contemplating divorce, file separately even if it winds up creating a higher liability for that year. File a joint return and you're potentially tied to the spouse financially for 13 years (3 years for an audit and 10 years to collect). You can put anything you like in a divorce decree about who's responsible for taxes, but the IRS isn't bound by it.

Phil
Rule Your Retirement Home Fool
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The cynic in me wonders if this is a move to put OP on record concerning what he says is the marriage's and his property and income preparatory to a divorce proceeding.

The same thing was suggested by a close friend just last night. I had previously told her that filing "joint" was a requirement of being "joint." So she's headed that way.

What if, if she choose not to claim 12 of my income on her return? If I read Pub 55 and provide the necessary information to her but she takes that attitude "that's your income, I don't have any." That sounds like I'm asking the IRS to come get involved in my personal life. I can't imagine how to make an impending divorce more contentious than asking the IRS to get involved. For the $8000 difference, I might be better off just claiming all the income.
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I might be better off just claiming all the income.

Disclaimer: NOT a tax person..

The statement above is probably not an option. I think you are missing the point expressed by several of the pro's. Namely, in a community property state, you have half and your wife has half of 'your' income.

Good luck to you.

George
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I can't imagine how to make an impending divorce more contentious than asking the IRS to get involved. For the $8000 difference, I might be better off just claiming all the income.

You really need to hire an advisor who knows Texas property law to help you on this. According to Pub 555 it may be possible to disregard the default community property treatment of earnings, but there are specific requirements. I don't think we have any Texas tax pros who frequent the board.

Phil
Rule Your Retirement Home Fool
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TMFPMarti: "I can't imagine how to make an impending divorce more contentious than asking the IRS to get involved. For the $8000 difference, I might be better off just claiming all the income.

You really need to hire an advisor who knows Texas property law to help you on this. According to Pub 555 it may be possible to disregard the default community property treatment of earnings, but there are specific requirements. I don't think we have any Texas tax pros who frequent the board."


Not a tax pro and not offering any advice.

Texas Familuy Code covers Texas Community Property:

http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/FA/htm/FA.3.htm

Sec. 3.001. SEPARATE PROPERTY. A spouse's separate property consists of:
(1) the property owned or claimed by the spouse before marriage;
(2) the property acquired by the spouse during marriage by gift, devise, or descent; and
(3) the recovery for personal injuries sustained by the spouse during marriage, except any recovery for loss of earning capacity during marriage.

Sec. 3.002. COMMUNITY PROPERTY. Community property consists of the property, other than separate property, acquired by either spouse during marriage.

Sec. 3.003. PRESUMPTION OF COMMUNITY PROPERTY. (a) Property possessed by either spouse during or on dissolution of marriage is presumed to be community property.(b) The degree of proof necessary to establish that property is separate property is clear and convincing evidence.

Sec. 3.004. RECORDATION OF SEPARATE PROPERTY. (a) A subscribed and acknowledged schedule of a spouse's separate property may be recorded in the deed records of the county in which the parties, or one of them, reside and in the county or counties in which the real property is located.(b) A schedule of a spouse's separate real property is not constructive notice to a good faith purchaser for value or a creditor without actual notice unless the instrument is acknowledged and recorded in the deed records of the county in which the real property is located.

. . .

Sec. 3.101. MANAGING SEPARATE PROPERTY. Each spouse has the sole management, control, and disposition of that spouse's separate property.

Sec. 3.102. MANAGING COMMUNITY PROPERTY. (a) During marriage, each spouse has the sole management, control, and disposition of the community property that the spouse would have owned if single, including:
(1) personal earnings;
(2) revenue from separate property;
(3) recoveries for personal injuries; and
(4) the increase and mutations of, and the revenue from, all property subject to the spouse's sole management, control, and disposition.

(b) If community property subject to the sole management, control, and disposition of one spouse is mixed or combined with community property subject to the sole management, control, and disposition of the other spouse, then the mixed or combined community property is subject to the joint management, control, and disposition of the spouses, unless the spouses provide otherwise by power of attorney in writing or other agreement.

(c) Except as provided by Subsection (a), community property is subject to the joint management, control, and disposition of the spouses unless the spouses provide otherwise by power of attorney in writing or other agreement.

. . . . .

Good Luck.

Regards, JAFO

Disclaimer

Yes, I am a lawyer, BUT THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE; it is only general information. NO CLIENT RELATIONSHIP IS INTENDED TO BE CREATED, NOR IS ANY SUCH RELATIONSHIP SO CREATED. FOR SPECIFIC LEGAL ADVICE YOU SHOULD TALK TO A LAWYER IN YOUR AREA.
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You can put anything you like in a divorce decree about who's responsible for taxes, but the IRS isn't bound by it.

No, but a sharp divorce lawyer can certainly make use of the data.

Eric Hines
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