Filed joint return but spouse did not sign? Tax court did not consider to be a valid return

In Reifler, TC Memo 2015-199TC Memo 2015-199, the Tax Court recently held that a joint return not signed by the wife was not a valid return and, as a result, imposed the failure-to-file penalty. In so doing, it rejected the taxpayer’s arguments that the return was valid either because it substantially complied with the valid return rules or because the wife intended to file a joint return and tacitly consented to the filing of a joint return.

Signatures on a tax return not only verify that a return has indeed been filed by the person indicated on the front page of a Form 1040 but also certify that all the statements in the tax return are made under penalty of perjury and are true, correct, and complete to the best of the taxpayers’ knowledge. (See Page 2 of Form 1040)

Taxpayers are advised to review this case carefully as the mistake can be extremely costly particularly in cases where the foreign reporting Forms such as 8938 and 5471 are part of Form 1040. Late filing of such Forms attracts heavy penalties. Practitioners should also ensure that the e-file authorization forms are signed by both taxpayer and spouse in case of joint tax returns.