Five Tips to a Better Income Tax Return; What to Know Before You Sign

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A majority of spouses sign a tax return blindly without knowing what they are consenting too. A family law attorney provides five tips on what to look for before signing on the dotted line.

It is important for individuals to know they will be held liable for what is being reported, whether their spouse or a professional accountant prepared the form.

Among the annual rites of spring is the filing of the annual income tax return. In a majority of households one spouse will ask another to simply “sign here”. If you read the fine print it clearly states “Under penalties or perjury, I declare that I have examined this return and accompanying schedules and statements, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, they are true, correct, and complete. “ But family law attorney Carlton R. Marcyan, a Partner at Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP, says in nearly 25 years of practicing law he would estimate that two out of three spouses do not look at their tax returns before signing it and are not aware of what they are consenting too. He says it is important for individuals to know they will be held liable for what is being reported, whether their spouse or a professional accountant prepared the form.

Whether you are newly married, been happily married for 25 plus years, or are considering a divorce, Marcyan says it is never too soon to have a basic understanding of your financial picture. He provides a few simple steps that any person can follow without the benefit of an education in financial planning:

1.    Read the entire return.
2.    How many exemptions are being reported? Does it accurately reflect your family?
3.    Review the Income being reported on line 7. Is this reasonable based on what you know?
4.    What is the taxable interest on 8a? What dividends are being reported? Does this reflect the bank accounts and investments of which you are aware?
5.    Have the taxes been paid either through federal income tax withheld, which is reported on line 61 or through estimated tax payment reported on line 62? If there are taxes owed on line 75, is there a check attached that covers that amount?

Marcyan recommends before signing your tax return you discuss any questions you may have with your spouse. If they are hesitant to answer your questions or you are not comfortable asking, he recommends meeting with a family lawyer who is skilled in financial matters and holds a designation such a Certified Financial Planner, Certified Public Accountant or Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. Marcyan says this is especially true for couples with substantial income and assets, which can be legally and financially complex. Finally, he recommends that spouses ask for and keep a copy of your tax return. If your spouse refuses, you can request one from the IRS through Form 4506.

Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP works with clients using a team approach to achieve the best possible results for those going through divorce and family transitions. The firm is the largest family law practice in the U.S and provides the most comprehensive legal resources available in this sensitive yet complex area of practice. Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP has offices in Chicago, Lake Forest and Wheaton, Illinois.

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Elizabeth Ferris

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