What is a wife’s liability for her husband’s IRS debt?

UPDATED: Nov 27, 2012

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What is a wife’s liability for her husband’s IRS debt?

My mom has been married to a man for about 16 years. They have never filed a joint tax return. She purchased a home 11 years ago in her name only. She has no clue where he is. He has debt with the irs and God knows who else. Is the home hers only if they divorce and is she responsible for his debt?

Asked on November 27, 2012 under Family Law, Ohio


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

These are two separate questions.  Let's take the first: if they filed separately then your Mother is NOT responsible for the information - and thus debt owed - on his return.  Now as for the home, that is a different story.  The general rule is that property purchased during a marriage is considered to be joint property regardless of whose name it is in.  If it was purchased with money earned during the marriage then that is marital money.  Do you see?  And the irony in the two questions answered jointly is that although she is not directly responsible for his debt, the IRS could attach a joint asset.  I would speak with ana ttorney as soon as you can here.  The fact that the house is not in his name now is a plus for her but  it is an asset of the marriage.  Good luck.

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