If both the signature of the husband and wife appears on the income tax return, then both individuals are liable to pay the taxes. If the couple files for a joint return, then the IRS will hold each spouse as responsible for the debt.
In most cases, the spouse who has signed the tax return can be excuse from paying liabilities if the spouse can provide proof that he or she is innocent which means that the innocent spouse has no idea about the information stated on the income tax return.
This task is hard to prove. For instance, it was reported in the Wall Street Journal that a wife of an IRS auditor does not have any knowledge that her husband was taking monetary brides nor did she ask how her husband was able to get huge funding for their children’s education given his employment status. Although the wife was innocent, they were found liable of owing the government $150,000 of unpaid taxes.
The IRS also gives examples of a case wherein a taxpayer is granted protection as an innocent spouse. For instance, at the time when you signed the return and you have knowledge that your spouse failed to report a substantial amount of income ($5,000 gambling winnings) and the IRS found out, then you can still get off the case if you establish that you do not know about how your spouse handled his gambling winnings. This will exclude you from being liable to pay for penalty and, worse, go to jail.
For Maximum Protection
If a person wants to get full protection from any liability due to inaccurate tax returns that was filed by his or her spouse, then the best thing to do is to file separately. If you both have equal incomes, then the tax will be the same as when you have filed jointly. If you have differences in the income that you make, then you do not have any choice but to file for joint returns to save money but you should always be cautious with reporting your tax.
During the past, marriage penalty is very popular wherein couples usually end up paying higher federal taxes for filing jointly. However, since 2004, the marriage penalty has been eliminated and the couples will pay the total amount of taxes whether the filer is married or unmarried.