What Do You Do if Married Filing Jointly & Spouse Won't Give Tax Information?
If your spouse refuses to provide you with his tax information, you are still obligated to file your taxes with or without him. The Internal Revenue Service provides you with a solution when these problems arise -- file separately. Even without your spouse's consent, you can still file your taxes, but your filing status -- and with it your tax rate and your eligibility for some tax credits -- will change.
Even though you have filed jointly with your spouse in the past, your spouse is not obligated to file a joint return in subsequent years. Filing jointly does have many advantages, but the IRS will not compel your spouse to file with you. You must have joint consent with your spouse to file a tax return jointly. If he will not provide you with the tax information, you cannot prepare your return using the married filing jointly status. You also cannot sign your spouse's name to the return without his consent.
Married Filing Separately
If your spouse chooses not to file jointly, you should file separately. When you file separately, you claim only your income and pay your own tax. Instead of the IRS taxing you at the married tax rate, when you file separately, the IRS taxes your income at the single rate. In addition, taxpayers who file separately cannot claim an exemption for a spouse and have half the standard deduction they would if filing jointly. You cannot claim certain tax credits, such as the child and dependent care credit and earned income credit, and some credits are reduced if you file separately from your spouse.
Head of Household
In some circumstances, married taxpayers can file using the head of household filings status. If you file a separate return, paid more than half the costs of keeping up your home for the year, live separately from your spouse during the last six months and maintained a home for your child, the IRS considers you as unmarried. If you qualify for head of household, you can claim a larger standard deduction than you would filing separately and you will qualify for all tax credits.
Joint and Separate Liability
Filing separately from your spouse also provides you with a certain amount of protection if you suspect your spouse is cheating on his taxes. Joint filers have joint liability on any debt owed to the IRS, but separate filers are responsible for only their own taxes. By signing a joint return, you accept that the information on your return is honest and precise. Even if you were unaware of the inaccurate information on your joint tax return, you are usually still liable.
Angela M. Wheeland specializes in topics related to taxation, technology, gaming and criminal law. She has contributed to several websites and serves as the lead content editor for a construction-related website. Wheeland holds an Associate of Arts in accounting and criminal justice. She has owned and operated her own income tax-preparation business since 2006.