My Husband Committed Suicide and Left Me With IRS Debt. – Kathy

“Dear Jim,

I’m dealing with a situation where I was married for 11 years. It was a very abusive marriage. To make a long story short, he committed suicide, since then the IRS has been hounding me, garnishing my wages and threatening holds on my bank account as they have made me liable for all of his back taxes, which the last time I checked it totaled over 150k. It’s been over 6 yrs now and I am now engaged but fear getting married as I don’t want and won’t make someone else responsible for this.
Can you give me any advise please. Also, this is in florida.

If I remarry, will back taxes from my deceased husband fall off of me?

Thank you,


Hi Kathy:

First, I am sorry to hear about your situation.

Let me address your tax situation and try to provide you some options that you need to review.

First, if you filed a joint return with your late husband you are liable for the tax balances owed. However, you may have some options, depending on your circumstances.

Option #1: filing for an “Innocent Spouse” – this could potentially eliminate some or all of your tax liability depending on your situation. In brief, innocent spouse relief allows you to not be liable for a deficiency that is solely attributable to your spouse’s tax return error or for an unpaid balance on an original return (these conditions are complicated). I do not know if your late spouse filed a balance due return or it was adjusted by the IRS. In any event, a quick look into the innocent spouse provisions to see if it applies is warranted. Look closely at the “equitable relief” option for innocent spouse. Here is the link to the IRS interactive interview to help you with that determination.

Option #2: You may want to consider an offer in compromise depending on your financial situation. The IRS has relaxed those rules and you may qualify.

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Option #3: Because you are being garnished to pay the debt, you should ask the IRS for a payment plan based on your ability to pay. Garnishment is usually an indicator that you do not have an agreement to pay with the IRS. You may be paying more than the IRS would allow under an installment agreement.

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Your future husband will not have to pay your tax liability. If you file a joint return, he will have to file an “Injured Spouse” form with the IRS in order that his refund is not taken to pay your liability.

However, your future husband’s finances may affect your installment agreement. The IRS determines your installment agreement amount based on your “household” income and expenses. More income in the household may mean more ability to pay, and thus, a higher installment agreement.

You will probably need a professional to sort out your facts and options. One bit of advice: consider all options before you move forward.



Jim Buttonow is one of the resident debt experts here at GetOutOfDebt.org that helps people for free. Jim is a licensed CPA who spent 19 years with the IRS coordinating large compliance teams of IRS agents and specialized personnel. In the last 5 years, Jim has invented consumer and practitioner software and treatises on how to address many different tax issues. He has also represented many people before the IRS examination, collection, filing, and appeals functions. He currently assists taxpayers on an active pro bono tax practice aimed at serving people in need. He can be reached at IRSMind.com.

If you have a tax question you’d like to ask just use the online form. I’m happy to help you totally for free.

Jim Buttonow, CPA/CITP, practices in the area of IRS and State tax controversy. He has more than 29 years of experience in IRS practice and procedure. Reach Jim at jim@buttonowcpa.com or through his website www.buttonowcpa.com
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