I Made a Mistake and Filed a Joint Tax Return and My IBR Payment is Going to Go Up


Dear Steve,

I have a school loan that seems to have doubled and right now I owe almost $69,000. I have been enrolled in the IBR plan and also work for a school district so I am enrolling in the Public Service Forgiveness Plan. My question is that I filed taxes as “jointly” with my spouse this year. BIG mistake. Now, when I go to renew my application, I have to include his income. The debt was before we had even met. I own my own home (my daughter lives there) and I pay all of those bills from my income. My husband has his own home and he pays for all of those bills. We have our own vehicles, own insurance and everything is separate. I do all the upkeep and improvements on my home and vice versa.

Is there any way to not include his income? If I do, my payments go up to over $1,000 a month and I am the only one responsible for those? I could leave him or get a divorce….seems like that is the only thing I can do. I know it was a mistake to file that way but the IRS does allow amendments for status changes EXCEPT the married jointly and married separately issue.



Dear Shelley,

Do You Have a Question You'd Like Help With? Contact Debt Coach Damon Day. Click here to reach Damon.

The IRS does allow for amendments if you were going the other way. But to go from joint to separate it has to be done before the April 15th filing deadline.

If you wanted to be “brave” you could always attempt to recertify your IBR payments with Income Based Repayment Plan Alternative Documentation of Income. But you’d have to lie on that form. When you get to Section 4 it is pretty clear – “SECTION 4: INCOME INFORMATION (MUST BE COMPLETED BY THE BORROWER AND THE BORROWER’S SPOUSE, IF MARRIED AND FILING JOINTLY).” The big issue here is you have to agree “I understand that my income information may be requested from the IRS even if alternative documentation of my income is accepted.”

See also  Income-Driven Repayment Programs for Federal Student Loans are a Mess

The Income Based Repayment (IBR) plan still has the available loophole of only counting just your income if you file separately. Under the newer income driven repayment plan REPAYE the only way to get your payment determined on your income alone would be you were separated from your spouse or “unable to reasonably access your spouse’s income.”

Make sure you annually file your Employment Certification Form for Public Service Loan Forgiveness and make sure you keep any correspondence you receive in a safe place and don’t lose it.

The Department of Education is being a bit squirly on saying retroactively that your employment qualified.

Finally, don’t forget, as long as you are in the IBR or any income driven repayment plan your balance will continue to go up if the payment does not cover the interest being charged.

Damon Day - Pro Debt Coach

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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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