5 Questions for Divorcing Spouses to Consider During Tax Season

5 Questions for Divorcing Spouses to Consider During Tax Season

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5 Questions for Divorcing Spouses to Consider During Tax Season

Divorce requires people to adjust their lives, and tax season is but one reminder of that. If you are in the process of divorcing, you may have questions about how you should be filing. Instead of the deadline extension, not-yet-divorced spouses have more time to address issues and iron out important decisions that need to be made.

Your marital status on December 31st, 2020, sets the precedent for the whole year, so if you were not legally separated or divorced by that date, you must either file jointly or as married filing separately. Unfortunately, if you are considered married—for tax purposes—but choose to file separately, your taxes will likely be higher than if you were to file jointly.

When children are involved, the process can become even more intricate. However, if you file jointly, you can avoid the debate of who will be claiming your children as dependents. If you are married and filing separately, only one parent can name a qualifying child, along with the following tax breaks.

Below is a list of questions for divorcing parents regarding IRS tax rules to consider while filing their taxes:

  • Do we need a more extended extension period if available?
  • Will we owe taxes above those withheld from our salaries/compensation, and how are those taxes paid?
  • Who is preparing the returns, and when will I receive them to review before filing?
  • Do I have enough information to understand the information on the tax returns?
  • Is there a need for a “neutral” accountant to review the return on my behalf?

Applying For a Longer Extension Period

A collective sigh of relief could be heard as news of the 2021 tax extension broke. With just over a month of extra time to file taxes, people have more time to collect their forms and get their taxes in. This allows divorcing spouses more time to coordinate with their ex-partners. Filing for a further extension will give people until October 15th to file their tax returns without penalty. If a divorce is not amicable and a couple runs into disputes, this may be the best option to get finances in order and accurately file. Ultimately, the way you file—either jointly or married filing separately—is up to both you and your ex-partner. If you are having trouble agreeing, filing for a longer extension can provide more time to enlist the help of a neutral accountant and divorce attorney.

Owing Additional Taxes

There are many instances where you may owe taxes beyond what was initially withheld from your salary or other forms of compensation. Some examples include taxes on interest income, foreign income, dividends, college financial aid, and K-1s. In addition, you could be taxed further on the income you received from your employer, which may not have had sufficient withholdings depending on tax law changes. The drawback to filing jointly when you are getting divorced is that you become jointly and severally liable for all taxes due, including the taxes on your income.

Both parties are equally responsible for the taxes owed, so it is up to you and your ex to agree on the best course of action. The agreement should be in writing and outline each spouse’s portion of the liability and any requirements for on-time payments. If you cannot decide, contacting your lawyer is in your best interest.

Preparing Your Taxes

You can take different routes when filing your tax returns, depending on how much money you are willing to spend. If you are filing jointly, you and your ex-partner must agree on whether you will be responsible for completing your taxes or whether hiring a tax professional is the better option.

Some of the more well-known software programs you can use to complete your taxes are TurboTax, Tax Act, and H&R Block. Elect to file your taxes this way. You will be able to review your taxes throughout the entire process, giving you the visibility necessary to confirm you have both entered the correct information throughout.

Working with a neutral CPA or EA may be the best option if you need more guidance throughout the filing process. Many people choose to hire an accountant or tax professional to ensure their taxes are done right. It’s crucial to find a neutral accountant with the right level of experience and specialization.

Throughout this process, it is important to remember that communication and teamwork are vital to getting your finances in order and that you must approach your taxes with an unbiased mindset, free from the emotional clutter that divorce so often causes.

At Lazor Rantas, we understand the full spectrum of issues that can impact divorcing couples and are prepared to help. If you are considering divorce—or are in the early stages—and need an experienced attorney to guide you through the process, contact us today. We proudly serve clients throughout New Jersey as they navigate divorce and other complicated family law matters.

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