April 17, 2012 is the 2011 tax filing deadline and it’s quickly approaching. The Government does not care that you are going through potentially the most difficult time period in your life. Like the Godfather, the IRS wants its money. It does not want to hear excuses. It does not want to hear that you always filed jointly and now your soon-to-be ex-spouse will not sign the joint return, or provide their W-2, or disclose the income of the closely held business because they fear it will be used against them in the divorce process.

Filing your taxes can be difficult, especially if you owe money. Trying to file when going through a divorce can be especially difficult. That is why it is important to work with your attorney and a tax professional. There are many decisions to make when filing taxes during a divorce. First, you have to determine your filing status: married filing jointly, married filing separately, or head of household. If you decide to file jointly, make sure to be extra diligent. If your spouse prepares the returns, have your own tax professional review them to ensure that they are accurate. The IRS does not care that your spouse prepared or filed the taxes. If you sign the return, you can be held liable for misreporting.

If you decide to file married filing separately or head of household (if you qualify), the following determinations have to be made (and in some instances negotiated):

1. Who gets the mortgage interest deduction(s) and other itemized deductions?

2. Who gets to claim the child(ren)?

3. Can I deduct the temporary support?

4. Can I deduct my legal expenses for the temporary support?

5. Who gets to claim the Child Tax credit and the Household and Dependent Care credit?


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More often than not, a matrimonial law attorney is not a C.P.A.  More often than not during the process of a case, a client will ask the advice of their attorney, “How should I/we file tax returns this year?”

The answer is and should be first and foremost a reference to a C.P.A.  A qualified C.P.A will be able to look at a divorcing couple’s entire financial picture, including their past and advise as to how to best file the final tax return in a way to minimize the taxes due.

What happens when one party does not want to file a joint return because of concerns regarding tax liabilities or even worse, penalties? The recent unpublished Appellate Division decision of Hreha-Coloccia v. Coloccia, A-3892-07T1, decided September 2, 2009, gives some guidance in this regard.


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