If my husband claims me as a dependent, will he be responsible for my tax debt?

by Ashley N. Blessing, CPA | Nov 12, 2018

I have not worked for two years and am supported by my husband. If he claims me as a dependent, can he be held responsible for my tax debt?

There are two filing statuses available to married couples: married filing jointly and married filing separately. In most cases, it is more tax efficient to file jointly. Spouses aren’t claimed as dependents due to the filing statuses for married taxpayers. When married filing jointly, despite any disproportionate earnings between spouses, both spouses are generally held liable for the tax due on that particular return. If there are extenuating circumstances -- such as intentional failure to report income on one spouse’s side or legal separation -- there may be relief available. The IRS provides three types of relief: innocent spouse relief, separation of liability relief, and equitable relief. If you choose married filing separately, you are each only responsible for the tax liability on the return that you each file. It is important to note that there are some filing requirements that must be followed when married filing separately, and generally it results in unfavorable tax treatment.

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Answered by: Ashley N. Blessing, CPA, is a supervisor with Herbein + Company Inc. in Reading, Pa.

The responses are based on the limited information provided by the questioner and apply the laws and regulations at the time of posting. Other options could arise as rules and regulations may change over time, including but not limited to the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. They are intended to provide general information, not specific accounting or tax advice; they are not intended or written to be used and cannot be used for the purpose of avoiding or evading taxes or penalties under the IRS code or regulations. Views expressed do not imply an opinion of the PICPA, its officers, directors, employees, or members.
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