Although many married couples opt to file their tax returns jointly, it is wise for you to become familiar with both the advantages and disadvantages of joint filing. Generally speaking, if you sign a joint return, you take full responsibility for the accuracy of the information contained in your return. Therefore, if your spouse intentionally underreports his or her income, you, too, could be held liable if the IRS sends a deficiency notice with accompanying interest and penalties.
In some cases, however, you can be relieved of responsibility for your spouse’s errors. This relief is known as innocent spouse relief. If you file a joint tax return, it’s also possible that the entire tax refund due on your return will be used to offset certain debts of your spouse, including student loans, taxes, and child support arrearages. Because it may be inequitable for you to lose your portion of the tax refund simply because your spouse owes money, the IRS allows you to file an injured spouse claim (in some cases) to claim your money.