Spouse Files a Joint Tax Return Without Your Signature

Posted on March 11, 2014

Do you file joint tax returns with your spouse?

What happens if your spouse files a joint tax return that you neither reviewed nor signed?  Is that return a joint return?

Answer: It depends on the fact pattern in your specific case.  In a recent United States Tax Court case, spouses that had split but that had not yet divorced had filed their tax returns for many years as Married Filing Joint.  The wife typically kept a “tax file” and provided this file to her spouse who then caused the preparation of the joint tax return.  After they split, she still provided the “tax file” to her husband who then electronically filed a joint tax return without permission from his wife.

The United States Tax Court held that the joint return was a valid return even though the wife did not sign it or review it before it was electronically filed. The Tax Court held that the intention of the parties is determined at the time the tax return is filed.

Further, in evaluating whether the non-signing spouse should be deemed to have filed a joint return, the Court considers whether:

  • The non-signing spouse filed a separate tax return
  • The non-signing spouse objected to the joint tax return
  • Prior filing history indicates an intent to file jointly.

Because the wife did not file a separate tax return for the year in issue, provided the “tax file” to her husband and because their attorneys advised them to file jointly for the year in issue, the Court held that the joint return was valid.

Has your spouse signed your name on a tax return without your permission? Call us, we can help.

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