This is a timely topic since we all have our taxes due to "Big Brother" soon. As most people are aware, the married filing separately option is usually more expensive and not often the best way to go. But there are some very important exceptions. Throughout the United States the divorce rate is high, and in many states is approaching 50 percent. People often have their problems before divorce court. If you are living separately from your spouse for six months or more during the last part of the calendar year, you may file single or head of household (if you have children that you can claim). If you are still living together and let's say, for example, you see your spouse buying expensive cars, and because of other signs, you suspect him or her of dealing drugs. Then under these conditions you would do well to file your taxes married filing separately. If you continue to file your taxes married filing jointly and it comes to light your spouse earned a great sum of money and did not pay income taxes, the IRS could—and more than likely would—go after you for the taxes. The only way you can protect yourself in this type of tax situation is to file your taxes married filing separately, short of seeing a divorce attorney at once.
Another example when you can protect yourself from your spouse's liability is when you know or even suspect he or she has not filed for a year or more. What if, in either of these situations, you where a homemaker and had no income? File anyway with whatever you did have, even if it means putting zeros all over the return. This protects yourself from your spouse's liabilities. In the process of filing, it would be a very intelligent move to send the tax returns to the IRS and the state via Certified Mail with return receipt requested. That way, if it ever becomes a problem with the IRS or the state in which you live, you have proof of having filed married filing separately.
Anytime you suspect your spouse of exposing you to a high tax liability, it would save much grief and heartache by filing under the married filing separately status. Believe me, the IRS is not a very comforting shoulder upon which to cry. Another time it might be wise to file married filing separately is in the event of the death of your spouse, depending upon the conditions. Let me explain with the following example: Angela Heart's husband, Ted, dies suddenly. He has a business with a high liability, including more than $10,000 in self-employment tax. Angela, on the other hand, earned some W-2 wages that even by filing married filing separately would entitle here to get all of her withholdings back, Angela then sent in Ted's tax return using married filing separately as his filing status. They owned no property and had no assets to speak of, so Angela sent in no money with the return for her deceased husband. When the IRS contacted her about payment, she pointed out she was left no money to pay his taxes and could not afford to do so. She
had protected herself by filing married filing separately, and the IRS could not hit her up for the late Ted's liability.
A couple of these scenarios happened to my friends over the past few years and it is something that everyone that is married should take into consideration (not just women) when such a circumstance arises… in fact, get professional tax advice before submitting your taxes. The IRS is relentless!