My ex-husband says we were audited and I owe half the tax bill!?
January 19, 2015 1:32 PM   Subscribe

My ex-husband says we were audited and I owe half the tax bill!? Is that possible?

My ex-husband says he was audited by the IRS and our state for a year when we filed jointly. He's "going to send me half the bill" (which is enormous by my current standards). I do believe that he had some type of interaction with the tax agencies, but at no point was I contacted by anyone from the state, the IRS, or his accountant. The (alleged) audits focused only on his self-employment income.

I'll likely pursue innocent spouse relief if there is, in fact, a tax bill, but I haven't said that to my ex because it seems unnecessary to kick the hornet's nest before I have to. And I'll get help from a lawyer and/or accountant when the time comes. If it's at all relevant, my ex has many years of unfiled/unpaid taxes before we were married.

My question right now: is it actually possible that I was audited, and a tax bill was generated that I'm legally on the hook for, without any agency actually contacting me? I have filed taxes at my new address, I checked the box for change of address, the IRS knows where to find me!? This just seems so impossible, and I can't find any info on the internet. I'm reluctant to call the IRS or the state, I don't want to somehow insert myself into whatever's going on. Help?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can call the IRS's helpline and just ask if there's anything outstanding for your SSN. They're not going to do anything to you. I've always gotten superbly nice customer service from them.

And they've heard it all before.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:35 PM on January 19, 2015 [43 favorites]

Call the IRS. I bet you can get your general question answered anonymously. Or, even if you did give them details, they won't put you on the hook for money unless you do, in fact, owe it somehow.

Alternatively, ask your ex for all records regarding the tax year in question, including the original return, and any correspondence to/from the IRS regarding this audit. Since he just got audited, he should have all of this documentation readily available. Then see a lawyer or accountant.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:37 PM on January 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

Nthing call the IRS to see if there's any mention of it.

Then sweetly say to your ex, "Gary, that's very interesting. Please send me copies of the correspondence from the IRS, the itemization and all of the involved tax returns. I need to review it with my accountant and lawyer."

Who knows what the real story is, but set your mind at ease by calling the IRS. I'm 75% sure that he's just desperate and grasping at straws, but you never know. At any rate, do NOTHING until you have as much information as you and the pros you're going to employ need to assess this.

The IRS and your state tax folks have heard it all. Twice. They're lovely to deal with. Honest.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:46 PM on January 19, 2015 [15 favorites]

Of course you are "on the hook" for any taxes you actually owe. The best way to find out whether you owe is to contact the tax service. The sky will not fall. After it's all said and done, if you do end up owing you don't have to pay in a lump sum as your ex seems to be asking.
posted by zennie at 4:00 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also if you owe money to the government you pay the government, not your ex. Sounds pretty fishy to me.
posted by zennie at 4:03 PM on January 19, 2015 [40 favorites]

Right as I was getting divorced I got a letter from the IRS stating that we owed money on our joint return. It was mailed to the address on the return, which I still lived at, and she did not. So, no, she never would have seen it.
I probably could have stuck her with half the bill (married filing jointly), but it was my issue, so I just told her about the letter, stated in writing it was my debt alone to both her and the IRS, and paid the back taxes that I owed.
posted by rudd135 at 5:15 PM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Hey, I just went through (am still going through) something similar so I can give a definitive answer.

I was the one who filed the joint return, so the IRS sent me a letter saying that we (my ex and I) had not declared a thing on our taxes that we should have declared (note: it was an inadvertent omission on both our parts). They recalculated our taxes for us, said we owe $___ and that it was due by $DATE. If we missed the date, penalties and interest would accrue.

I called the IRS, said "uh, really? we're jointly responsible for this even though we're divorced now?" and they said (paraphrasing) "yes, really, work it out between yourselves, we're not marriage counselors." I scanned the paperwork & emailed it to my ex immediately. I'm 99% sure he got no correspondence from them. Because my address was on the return for that specific year, and I still live at that address, all of the correspondence comes to me.

Innocent spouse relief is for people who were coerced into signing joint returns that they knew were false, or they had no reason to believe were untrue, or you couldn't possibly understand the return (e.g. you are illiterate). There is a very invasive questionnaire and investigation, you can't just say "oh yeah, Bob was a jerk sometimes." They're also going to talk to Bob about what happened. Here's the form.
posted by desjardins at 5:58 PM on January 19, 2015 [6 favorites]

If it's at all relevant, my ex has many years of unfiled/unpaid taxes before we were married.

Wait! Yes, I missed this part, it is relevant. You are not on the hook for any of his back taxes, and if any of your refunds are/were garnished to pay his taxes from before you are married, you can get them back. You may be able to refile for those years as single. When they garnish your refund they send you a letter telling you which tax years that refund is being applied to.

If your divorce is not yet final, talk to your lawyer and this can be written into your agreement. If it is final, talk to an accountant about re-filing.
posted by desjardins at 6:04 PM on January 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

If it is for a year you filed jointly, then yes, you owe half.

The IRS can only audit for three years prior, I believe, so if you were married to this man during that time, you may be liable.

I was audited for my joint-filed taxes with an ex-spouse who clearly falsified his paychecks and got back a bigger refund the last year we were married. The paperwork came to our marital home three years later. He was never notified, though he was quite visibly a fault.

At the time he had no bank account; I was forced to pay all $6k myself. I had multiple affidavits swearing my ignorance and lack of culpability, a tax lawyer, filed innocent spouse... They will only accept innocent spouse if you are illiterate/non-English speaker, were physically threatened and forced to sign, or similarly blackmailed.

Basically, if he paid it already he may have to take you to small claims court to seek restitution, but if he hasn't paid it? They might try to garnish your bank account/future tax refunds until the balance is paid off.

Good luck!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:30 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

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