MEMORANDUM FINDINGS OF FACT AND OPINION
Respondent determined that petitioner was entitled to relief under section 6015(c) for 2010.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Some of the facts have been stipulated and are so found. The stipulations of fact and the attached exhibits are incorporated by this reference. Petitioner resided in Florida when she filed her petition.
Petitioner and Mr. Taft married in 1981. Shortly after their marriage, petitioner graduated from college with an associate's degree in nursing and began working as a registered nurse. Mr. Taft began working for Publix Supermarkets, Inc. (Publix), where he was employed for over 25 years. One of the benefits of Mr. Taft's employment with Publix was that he received company stock as part of his compensation. Over the years, the value of his stock grew to over $200,000.
In 2009 Mr. Taft was fired from Publix. The following year he began liquidating his stock to fund an extramarital affair. Mr. Taft concealed his stock transactions and his affair from petitioner.
When the time came to file their 2010 return, Mr. Taft did not want petitioner to discover the stock liquidation. Therefore he directed their longtime accountant to electronically file their joint return without petitioner's approval or review. The return reported a $25,000 sale of Publix stock and nearly $200,000 in income from "pensions and annuities". The return, however, failed to report $4,874 Mr. Taft received in taxable dividends. Unbeknownst to petitioner, respondent later assessed the additional tax liability arising from the dividends.
In late 2011 petitioner discovered the affair. She quickly separated from Mr. Taft and filed for divorce. In the course of the divorce proceeding, petitioner learned that Mr. Taft had liquidated all of his Publix stock and that he had wasted most of the family's retirement savings. The divorce became final in 2013.
Shortly after the divorce became final, petitioner filed her 2012 return showing that she was due a refund of $5,261. Instead of issuing the full refund, respondent credited $1,570 to the joint 2010 liability resulting from Mr. Taft's unreported dividends. Petitioner filed a Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief, requesting that she be relieved of the liability resulting from the unreported dividends and that respondent refund her money that was credited to that liability.
Respondent determined that petitioner qualified for relief under section 6015(c) but was not entitled to a refund.
Petitioner timely filed a petition for review of respondent's determination.
Generally, married taxpayers may elect to file a joint Federal income tax return. Sec. 6013(a). After making the election, each spouse is jointly and severally liable for the entire tax due. Sec. 6013(d)(3);
Respondent determined that petitioner "met the requirements for relief" under section 6015(c). Consequently, the entire deficiency was allocated to Mr. Taft. However, because spouses that are granted section 6015(c) relief are not entitled to refunds, petitioner did not receive a refund of her money that was used to satisfy the deficiency attributable to Mr. Taft.
Petitioner argues that she should have instead been granted relief under section 6015(b), which allows for refunds under these circumstances.
The requirements of section 6015(b)(1) are conjunctive. Failure of a requesting spouse to satisfy any one of the elements precludes relief.
Respondent concedes that petitioner satisfies the requirements of section 6015(b)(1)(A), (B), and (E). Respondent argues, however, that petitioner does not meet the requirements of subparagraphs (C) and (D) because she had reason to know of the understatement and because it would not be inequitable to hold her liable for the deficiency. We address these two arguments in turn.
Section 6015(b)(1)(C) Reason To Know
"An individual has reason to know of the understatement if a reasonably prudent taxpayer in her position at the time she signed the return could be expected to know that the return contained the understatement."
Petitioner has an associate's degree in nursing. She has no accounting or business background and has never taken tax classes. This factor weighs in favor of petitioner.
Petitioner credibly testified that she and her husband maintained a great deal of independence from each other when it came to the family's financial affairs. Petitioner and Mr. Taft each maintained a separate bank account which the other could not access, and they refrained from opening or reviewing each other's mail. Consequently, petitioner did not have access to the account where the dividends would have been deposited, and she did not review Mr. Taft's mail where the dividends would have been reported. Petitioner's role in the family's financial affairs was limited to paying certain household expenses. This factor weighs in favor of petitioner.
Lavish or Unusual Expenditures
While Mr. Taft surely made lavish and unusual expenditures in 2010, he concealed them from petitioner and did not make them for her benefit. Mr. Taft spent all his available resources on his secret affair. It was not until late in 2011 that petitioner discovered the affair and the fact that Mr. Taft had wasted his retirement savings. This factor weighs in favor of petitioner.
Culpable Spouse's Evasiveness or Deceit
Petitioner was clearly the victim of Mr. Taft's deceit. Mr. Taft did not want petitioner reviewing their joint return because she would have discovered that he had liquidated the family's retirement savings. Therefore, Mr. Taft directed the accountant to file the return electronically without petitioner's signature or review. When petitioner inquired as to the status of the return, Mr. Taft brusquely responded that he "took care of it".
Section 6015(b)(1)(D) Inequity
Next we must address whether it is inequitable to hold petitioner liable for the deficiency.
As stated in the prior section, the understatement was attributable to Mr. Taft and did not result in any significant benefit to petitioner. As the divorce court acknowledged,
In sum, we find that petitioner has established that she meets the requirements of section 6015(b)(1).
In reaching our holding, we have considered all arguments made, and to the extent not mentioned, we consider them irrelevant, moot, or without merit.
To reflect the foregoing,