Joint Returns Valid Despite Wife’s Forged Signature:
There are a ton of benefits in married couples filing a joint return. However, one disadvantage is that no matter what happens in the future (death, divorce, etc.) or if one party puts fraudulent info on the return, either the husband or wife can be held liable for the entire debt!
Normally these onerous provisions don’t apply if you’re a victim of a partner’s dishonesty such as them forging your name on the return. For better or worse, this North Carolina tax court decided they could read the mind (and thus the intent) of a widower who never signed a joint return.
I’ve included the Tax Court citation at the bottom of this post if you care to read about all the details; however, the lesson to learn from this is to review any return before you sign it. If you know it’s being filed on your behalf and don’t do this – you could be liable for someone else’s tax fraud!
Here’s the case summary of what went wrong.
For the years at issue, the taxpayer’s husband filed joint returns and paid all federal income taxes due. However, he signed the returns on the taxpayer’s behalf without her knowledge or consent. After her husband’s death, the taxpayer filed separate returns for the years at issue and sought a refund of part of the taxes her husband paid. She claimed the joint returns were invalid due to the forged signatures. A North Carolina District Court disagreed, holding that when only one spouse signs a joint return, that return is valid if the nonsigning spouse intended to file jointly. The taxpayer knowingly left all tax matters up to her husband and understood that he prepared and filed joint returns on her behalf. Therefore, she was precluded from replacing the valid joint returns with separate returns that showed a smaller tax liability. Alice Coggin, 122 AFTR 2d 2018-5171 (DC NC).
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