Legal Question in Tax Law in Indiana

Back Taxes owned by Spouse

My husband owes back federal taxes. This occured before the marriage. Can the IRS take money from my wages to pay for my husbands past debt?

Asked on 1/25/05, 1:32 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Ronald Cappuccio Ronald J. Cappuccio, J.D., LL.M.(Tax)

Re: Back Taxes owned by Spouse

The IRS cannot garnish your wages. Nor can the IRS levy against your separately owned property. Nevertheless, the IRS take all of your joint bank accounts and jointly titled assets. In addition, the IRS can file a Federal Tax Lien against your husband which becomes a lien on any jointly owned real estate. This would make it difficult to sell without paying the IRS.

Also, if upon your death, you leave any of your assets to your husband, or if he is the beneficiary of any life insurance policies, the IRS can take this.

If you file a joint return, the IRS will take all of the refund and make you fight to get your portion back. This may not be economically feasible. The smartest move would be to have the tax situation immediately analyzed by a tax attorney.

My web site contains further information:

I hope this helps!

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Answered on 1/25/05, 8:32 pm
Burton Haynes Burton J. Haynes, P.C.

Re: Back Taxes owned by Spouse

The IRS cannot take your wages, or your separately owned assets, to satisfy your husband's tax liabilities. But that simple statement glosses over various ways in which your husband's tax liabilities could in fact impact you.

First, to the extent that his wages are levied, that leaves less income for you and the family.

Second, the IRS often intercepts joint refunds to apply to the tax liability of only one of the spouses. You can then file an "injured spouse" claim to get back your portion of the refund, or you can file separately in the first place and avoid the problem.

Third, if your husband submits an offer in compromise, the IRS will "evaluate" the offer by considering the entire family income, even though you are not liable. So while they can't take your money, your income does have a bearing on the amount the IRS would be willing to accept in compromise of your husband's separate tax debt.

Finally, the IRS can impose a levy on your husband's share of jointly owned property, and under certain circumstances they can seize and sell the asset and then apply his share of the proceeds to his tax debts.

If we can assist you with any of this, please let us know.

BJ Haynes (

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Answered on 1/25/05, 2:06 pm

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