It isn’t just the accountants who suffer in April. Not that they garner much sympathy but lawyers who do divorce work are also afflicted by a tsunami of telephone calls that begin a couple days before April 15. Most begin with: “My spouse is in the driveway demanding that I sign the returns he just picked up from the accountant. What should I do?”
The calls are menacing because you can feel the tension through the phone. You also know that you really cannot help. The lawyer doesn’t know what the return says so we have no idea what to tell the client. So here are our tax tips for April, 2014.
If you sign the return that is being handed to you at the last second, know that you are stating under oath that the information is accurate on the return and that you agree that you owe any money due in connection with the return. It also means that you owe any money the IRS decides is due after they finish having their way with the return.
Scared? Well, you can tell your spouse that you will agree to jointly file for an extension. The extension runs to October 15 and to be valid must be accompanied by any payment due.
You can file separately. This actually may be best because a married separate return can be amended to a joint return after you have had a chance to review the return with a lawyer or accountant of your choosing. You can also file an extension separately. In that way you are not committing to a joint return until you have a chance to look.
The separate return or the extension are scary in their own right mainly because you know that failing to sign the return is going to make your spouse VERY ANGRY. It’s a pretty common ploy and people are not always at their best during tax season anyway.
The real answer is to write an email to your spouse this weekend.
“Dear Spouse. It’s about to be the second week of April. If you are expecting me to sign a joint return I need time to look at it. If I don’t have the return to look at by Friday April 11, I’ll arrange to file separately or file for an extension. That’s only fair.”
If you and spouse work regular jobs for regular pay and receive W-2s at the end of January, tax returns are usually not minefields for problems. But if you have any kind of business or rental real estate or unusual income, tax returns become far more complicated. The more complicated the return, the more likely, the IRS will want to review it and perhaps adjust or audit the return. So beware and try to avoid calling your lawyer on April 14 or 15.