I became separated last year and my ex-spouse wants me to file taxes jointly and split the refund. Do I have an obligation to include him or could I file as married filing separately and claim the kids, mortgage interest, etc.? What repercussions might this have?
FPA member Jim Heisler, CFP®, CASL™, CDFA™, president of Family Wealth Services, LLC, offered the following advice: “You are not obligated to file jointly with your ex-husband, but it could be in your best interest (from a refund perspective) to do so. Normally, if you would itemize your deductions on your joint return you may be forced to do so if you were to file separately — assuming your husband intended to itemize his deductions. One spouse cannot file using the standard deduction while the other spouse itemizes — this is not permissible per the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax code. You also need to be careful that both of you do not claim the children on your returns if you do file separately. Before you make the this decision, I suggest that you speak with a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or a qualified tax preparer to find out which strategy will be best for you.”