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Stephen G.
Stephen G., Sr Income Tax Expert
Category: Tax
Satisfied Customers: 7096
Experience:  Extensive Experience with Tax, Financial & Estate Issues
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My husband and I have always filed jointly our taxes. I have

Customer Question

My husband and I have always filed jointly our taxes. I have no income other than his providing me with household maintenance every month. I do not work and haven't for many years. At this point I would like to file separate from my husband. We have not filed the last several years. Am I able to change the status of filing on those back taxes. I need to take care of my part and get this behind us but he is procrastinating still.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Tax
Expert:  Stephen G. replied 1 year ago.

For any of the years that Federal & California income taxes haven't been filed, you may file a separate return using the "Married Filing Separately". However, two things come to mind:

1. It doesn't sound like you have any income to report and therefore you have no requirement to file an income tax return. As long as you don't sign a joint return with your husband, you can't be held responsible for anything to do with the IRS.

2. You should realize that if you file separately, it will result in substantially more income taxes that your husband must pay & he will have no other option; if he signs your name without your authorization, that is fraudulent & will result in substantial additional penalties for him & possibly criminal sanctions.

3. You may want to consider what affect that will have on the family as a whole and whether or not this could result in other financial issues/problems for you. For example could that situation affect the support you receive from him?

4. If the returns that you filed using the "married filing jointly" filing status are for periods prior to 3 years ago (in other words before 2012) those returns involved closed years. Also, you may not change your filing status once you file a joint return. Tax liabilities are determined on a year by year basis. If there are balances due on any of the returns you filed jointly, if necessary you may still be able to insulate yourself from those liabilities using the "innocent spouse" rules. Here's a link to the IRS rules relating to the three types of innocent spouse relief:

5. You may want to consider informing your husband that if the joint returns show an unpaid tax liability and he has insufficient funds to pay the tax, you are not going to sign a joint return. He should realize that will mean he must also file using the "Married Filing Separately" filing status and the tax that he owes will increase substantially. That should motivate him to get the returns prepared and to borrow the funds to pay the tax in full on a year by year basis, and only then should you consider filing a joint return with him.

Expert:  Stephen G. replied 1 year ago.

Just checking in to see if you have any follow-up questions or to see if there's anything I may clarify for you?

If not, I would appreciate it if you would take a moment to rate my response as that is the only way we get credit

for our work.

Thanks very much for using

Expert:  Stephen G. replied 1 year ago.

May I answer any further questions or give you any additional information about Married Filing Separately?

I see you have read my response to your initial questions; I would appreciate it if you would take a minute to rate my response as that is the only way I'll receive credit for my work. You won't be charged anything additional for providing a rating. Thanks very much. Steve G.