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Tax Talk with George Saenz

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Filing status and the incarcerated spouse

Dear Tax Talk:
I have an odd question. I got married in March, so I started to look ahead to the next year and tax filing. But now I'm kind of thrown for a loop as to just exactly what status I should file under. Currently, my wife is serving a sentence in state prison. Under that circumstance, are we able to file jointly or do I need to file separately from her?
Thanks.
B.N.

Dear B.N.:
Your question definitely is one of the oddest I've received. Most people in your situation aren't hung up on tax-filing status.

There's nothing in the tax rules that would prevent you from filing a joint return with an incarcerated spouse.

Perhaps you're thinking that since you aren't sharing living expenses, you cannot share a tax return.

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Even though the state may be providing more than half of your wife's support, she still may be listed as a personal exemption on your joint Form 1040.

You will, however, need to get her to sign the return.

You don't necessarily need to file separately from her. But you may want to consider that option if she committed a financial crime that would have a tax impact.

-- Posted: July 16, 2003

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See Also
Correct filing status can make a difference in your tax bill
A couple's conundrum: To file jointly or separately?
Sometimes it pays to file separately from your spouse
Tax glossary
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