In an unusual case, a man claimed that the errors on his tax return were caused by abuse he suffered at the hands of his ex-wife. Unfortunately for him, the court didn't buy it.
According to CPA Peter Reilly's blog Passive Activities and Other Oxymorons (via Forbes), David C. Ladehoff made an error on his joint 2008 tax return with his wife — he ended up owing the IRS $1,097. The two got divorced in 2009. This year, Ladehoff went to court to challenge the IRS's claim that he owed money. He cited a section of the tax code that states that a spouse is not responsible for tax errors if the mistakes were made by the other spouse and they said nothing because they were afraid of being abused. Documents in the Ladehoff case read,
Petitioner testified that he was physically and emotionally abused by his ex-wife throughout the marriage. Evidence of two police reports documenting allegations of domestic battery were entered into the record. The first incident occurred on July 4, 2008, and the second on May 14, 2009. The first report states that petitioner refused to file a domestic battery complaint. The second incident occurred after the return for the year in issue was filed. Petitioner was listed as the victim in both reports. Petitioner's ex-wife was listed as the "other person involved" in both reports — in the first report under the code for spouse and in the second report under the code for second victim.
The court ruled against him, but not because they didn't believe he was abused. Rather, they noted that he had prepared the return, and the mistakes were due to a math error he made, not to any information his wife might have provided. Even though Ladehoff's claim didn't fly, though, it's an interesting illustration of the attendant problems abuse can cause. If you're deeply afraid of your spouse, the most mundane acts can become opportunities for intimidation — and if it involves your tax return, that intimidation can lead to legal troubles. Ladehoff may not have been a victim of it, but it seems tax coercion is a real thing — one even the IRS recognizes.
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