When two people fall in love, they tend to be blind to life’s realities. The last thing they want to do is bring up issues that might generate conflict, and let’s face it, the topic of taxes is definitely turbulent.
Ask the tough tax questions before you get married
After decades of working with people in tax trouble, I have learned that financial misunderstandings are the root of all evil. They generate tax problems, budget problems, bankruptcies, divorces, and flat-out nastiness. This is especially true when both partners are not truthful before marriage.
For instance, a friend of mine married a man who had neglected to tell her a few important things about his finances. He had an outstanding IRS tax lien for over $10,000 left over from his previous marriage. Because my friend and her new husband had comingled funds, the IRS took the money from her bank account.
Although my friend’s husband claimed to be an executive, he had not had a stream of income for some time. He ended up dissipating all her assets, including a substantial inheritance.
Fortunately, you can protect yourself by asking a few key questions and by requesting your prospective spouse’s permission to get some important financial reports on him or her. You should share the same information with your spouse-to-be:
File a Form 4506T request with the IRS for each of you. Request a copy of Form 1040 on line six, check all the boxes on the form, and enter the last four years on line nine (i.e., 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009).
When you send the form back to the IRS, the agency will send you the tax forms for the years you requested, and you’ll know if your future spouse has filed tax returns in the last four years. You’ll also learn whether he or she owes the IRS any money. If you fear that your soon-to-be spouse may owe outstanding balances for more than the past four years, you can request the last 10 years’ data.
Each order your own Equifax credit report to share with the other. Consider opting for a report that gives you information from all three nationwide credit reporting agencies. Doing so will alert you to liens, levies, a poor credit history, and more.
Once you have these reports in hand, it will be easier to start the money conversation. Thoroughly read the information in the reports and ask questions about anything you don’t understand, but don’t be hostile or accusing.
Ask the right questions. It’s important to be on the same page with your partner before you tie the knot. If your answers to the following questions differ, discuss your points of view rationally.
- What is your attitude towards money? Are you frugal, stingy, wasteful, or balanced?
- Do you gamble? How? Do you gamble online or in casinos? Do you make bets with friends?
- Do you owe any gambling debts?
- Are you willing to live on a budget?
- What big purchases are you itching to make in the next few years, and how do you plan to pay for them?
- Do you have child or spousal support obligations? Do you meet these obligations on time?
- How are your relationships with your ex and your children? How will those relationships impact our lives, financially and emotionally?
- Is there any reason why we might have to keep our finances separated, at least in the beginning?
These are just some questions to bring up. Sit and think about things that matter to you and make a list that works for your situation. That way, you’ll be prepared to have a calm and rational conversation. I do hope it works out!
Eva Rosenberg, EA is the publisher of TaxMama.com ®, where your tax questions are answered. She is the author of several books and ebooks, including Small Business Taxes Made Easy. Eva teaches a tax pro course at IRSExams.com and tax courses you might enjoy at http://www.cpelink.com/teamtaxmama.