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Can your ex-spouse's tax dodges hurt you?

Here's the short and quick answer to that above-posed headline question: Yes.

Well, maybe.

You know --- heck, we all know -- that the Internal Revenue Service is staffed by fairly serious people who zero in hard when they suspect tax irregularities and do not turn the cheek when they discover hard proofs evidencing fraudulent acts committed by a tax filer.

Say that you are now divorced from an ex-spouse who took care of all the finances during a long-tenured Georgia marriage. All you ever did was scratch out your signature on the bottom of the joint return your former partner made sure got out the door every year.

What if your ex was cheating on those returns? Say, for example, that he or she intentionally omitted or understated income?

Can you -- an entirely innocent party -- now be targeted by the IRS years later and post-divorce to account for those purposeful misrepresentations?

Here's a preliminary point to note, at least from an IRS perspective: If you signed on the dotted line, you're liable for what the agency says it is owed, either in concert with your ex or, in some instances, solely by yourself. Your stated lack of knowledge is deemed entirely irrelevant by the IRS in most instances.

That's pretty serious, right? It certainly lends support to the comment made by one financial planner in a media article on IRS exactions imposed on innocent spouses following divorce that failure to know what's going on with taxes during marriage can "destroy your life" post-divorce.

That is, of course, not always the case. Notwithstanding its reputation, the IRS is not devoid of all feeling. In some instances, it does allow for what is termed "innocent spouse relief," if exonerating materials -- specific and suitably abundant -- support it.

Questions regarding divorce and taxation can be directed to an experienced family law attorney.

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