Tax lessons from professional athletes
Paying taxes on Super Bowl (and other gambling) winnings

Married couples filing joint returns share all tax liability, too

Singer, songwriter and political and social activist Pete Seeger died last week. He was 94.

Seeger was as well known for his commitment to causes that at the time were unpopular as he was for his songs, and that's saying a lot.

After being blacklisted for being a "godless communist," Seeger turned to the Bible (and gave co-writing credit to Ecclesiastes) to compose Turn, Turn, Turn, one of the most beautiful and timeless songs ever. It became a No. 1 hit for the Byrds in 1965.

Other widely beloved Seeger songs include "If I Had Hammer" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"

And although making money was not the driving force behind Seeger's efforts, he made his share off his creative efforts.

That meant that Seeger paid taxes. But it was not always a comfortable process for him.

Mary O'Keeffe, an Internet friend and fellow tax blogger at Bed buffaloes in your tax code, shared this wonderful tax and relationship tidbit about Seeger and his wife, Toshi, who passed away in 2013 at age 91, that was mentioned in her New York Times obituary.

"Because Toshi was a woman, and because she disliked spotlights, she never received her due. As Pete's producer, she made sure he was in the right place at the right time in the right mood, and that he knew where to go next.

When problems arose, she took the blame. At tax time, when her shy singer couldn't face how much money he earned — or worse, how much he gave the government for war — Toshi would place a blank page over the return when Pete signed it."

Tax sharing rules: Many married couples can identify with this type of financial and tax partnership.

I've handled the routine finances -- bill paying, making contributions to emergency funds and retirement accounts -- and the tax preparation and filing for the more than 32 years that the hubby and I have been married.

I long ago gave up trying to explain to the hubby why I did what on our jointly filed return. Aside from yelling "deduct, deduct" as I work on our 1040, he has no interest in our taxes.

He trusts me, just as I trust him to take the lead in other major decisions in our life together.

But the hubby and all spouses need to be aware that they sign a joint tax return with a spouse, each is jointly and severally liable for the entire tax amount due and, heavens forbid, any additions to tax, interest or penalties that arise as a result of the joint return.

Joint + several = both of you: Joint and several liability, which is today's Daily Tax Tip, is found in §6013(d)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

This tax law gives the Internal Revenue Service the ability to come after either spouse for payment of a tax bill, even the spouse who is in more dire financial circumstances.

This is true even if one spouse earned all the income or claimed improper deductions or credits.

It also remains in effect if the couple later divorces and even if the divorce decree states that a former spouse will be responsible for any amounts due on previously filed joint returns.

In some cases, a spouse might be relieved of joint and several liability. The IRS can, under certain circumstances, provide Separation of Liability Relief, which allows for the allocation of additional tax owed between spouses, current or former, because an item was not reported properly on a joint return.

Essentially, the due tax allocated to you is the amount for which you are responsible.

But as with all things that involve taxes and the IRS, doing cleanup is always more complicated than simply avoiding a troublesome tax situation in the first place.

So this filing season, all you husbands and wives give your tax-preparing spouses a little extra love. And take the time to really, thoroughly look over the joint 1040 that your spouse hands you to sign.

You also might find these marriage related posts of interest:


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