Get Your Lazy Spouse To Pay Their Taxes


Is your spouse sitting on the couch watching Cartoon Network (TWX) while you fret about the upcoming tax deadline? Relax, relate, and release the pent up frustration, there are ways to get the ball rolling before you are both hit with late penalties.

Whether you’ve been married for one year or thirty years, you know your partner. You may be unable to make that person up their socks, but you can organize the tax process in a way that will pick up their pace .

To guide you, here are some tips from MainStreet and Tom Ochsenschlager, the Vice President of Taxation at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Let’s say you know your better half will have difficulty gathering all the necessary tax forms before deadline: File an extension. The April 15 deadline is right around the corner, and “my wife or my husband made me late” is not a valid excuse for not filing your tax returns on time. Uncle Sam will let you extend the date –but there are no extensions granted on the due date of a payment. Take some time and figure out what you may owe. Find last year’s statement and file your returns using an estimate. The previous year’s returns may provide a hint of what your returns should look like for this year.

If that’s not an option, you might even consider filing separate tax returns. That’s separate, not single. Separate tax filers may later elect to file a joint tax return before the statue of limitations. However, if you file a joint tax return, you cannot elect to file a separate return after the April 15 deadline. This might sound like a great idea –just remember that separate filing may result in higher tax payments. Why is it a disadvantage to file separately? The higher income spouse could be placed in higher bracket, resulting in higher taxes than if the couple filed a joint return.

Technology can help. If you’re using a tax program, find out if the service provides online access to digital W-2s online. If your spouse works for a large or major employer, then you may be able to access all the information online without the old-fashion paper W-2 form. Turbo Tax (INTU) with ADP (ADP), a payroll processor and, if your employer allows, may offer online access to the documents. You will generally need your employer identification number and total wages, which are frequently found on your last paycheck of the year.

If all else fails and your procrastinator hubby or wife becomes an ex and years down the line you’re still worried about those late or rushed taxes, the IRS might be on your side. There’s an “innocent spouse” rule that might protect you from penalties or taxes owed by the procrastinator.

But that's getting ahead of ourselves. Taxes shouldn’t divide you. "If you’re married to a slacker, bite the bullet, and accept that you might have to do most of the work,” says Ochsenschlager. “Keep your eyes on the mailbox and take control.”


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