If you and your husband violate Internal Revenue Service tax laws, it will add stress to your relationship and it could rob you of a refund you're entitled to. If you are filing with your husband and he has never filed taxes, you should take some precautions to ensure you aren’t left on the hook for whatever taxes he might owe.
As a married taxpayer, you have the choice between filing a joint or separate return. If you choose to file jointly, you and your husband must include all of your income, deductions, credits and exemptions on one return. If you file a separate return, you are individually responsible for the correctness and completeness of the information listed on your individual tax return, but there is no joint responsibility.
Your husband was required to file an income tax return for any years he met the IRS' income requirements. As an example, single taxpayers under the age of 65 who earned more than $9,750 in 2012 were required to file a return. The income requirement was $12,500 for taxpayers who qualified to file as a head of household. If your husband’s income exceeded the IRS income requirement before you were married but he did not file a return, it's probably in your best interest to encourage him to file his delinquent returns individually before you file a return jointly.
If you file a joint return, you and your spouse have joint responsibility for any tax owed, as well as any penalties and interest accrual. If you file a return for which you are owed a refund, the IRS can offset your joint refund and apply it to a debt owed by your spouse.
You can relieve yourself of joint liability by filing IRS Form 8379, "Injured Spouse Allocation," along with your original return, or you can mail it later if you learn of your spouse’s tax liability after you've filed. You are only entitled to injured spouse relief if all or part of your portion of a tax refund was applied to your spouse’s debt. If you did not pay taxes during the tax year in question, you are not entitled to injured spouse relief.
If your husband has never filed a return and he was required by law to do so, the IRS might have filed substitute returns on his behalf. That return will not afford him any of the credits, exemptions or deductions for which he may be eligible, which usually means he'll owe back taxes.
Denise Caldwell is a finance writer who has been writing on taxation and finance since 2006. Her articles appear regularly on websites such as Gomestic.com and MoneyNing.com. She has taken what she learned while working at the IRS to provide readers with helpful tax and finance tips. Caldwell received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Howard University.