Individual Not Entitled to Innocent Spouse Relief
An individual who owned a limited liability company (LLC) with her former spouse was not entitled to relief from joint and several liability under Code Sec. 6015(b). The taxpayer argued that she did not know or have reason to know of the understated tax when she signed and filed the joint return for the tax year at issue. Further, she claimed to be an unsophisticated taxpayer who could not have understood the extent to which receipts, expenses, depreciation, capital items, earnings and profits, deemed or actual dividend distributions, and the proper treatment of the LLC resulted in tax deficiencies. The taxpayer also asserted that she did not meaningfully participate in the functioning of the LLC other than to provide some bookkeeping and office work.
However, the taxpayer, a high school graduate, testified that she had “a little bit of banking education,” indicating that she had some familiarity with bookkeeping. Her ex-spouse added during trial that the taxpayer had worked at a bank for a few years. Regarding her role in the LLC, the taxpayer maintained the business’ books and records, prepared and signed sales tax returns and unemployment tax contribution forms on its behalf, and worked with an accountant to prepare its tax returns. Nothing in the record indicated that her ex-spouse tried to deceive or hide anything from her.
Further, the taxpayer’s joint ownership of the LLC, her involvement in maintaining its books and records, her role in preparing and signing tax-related documents on behalf of the business, and her cooperation with an accountant to prepare the LLC’s tax returns, showed that she had actual knowledge of the factual circumstances that made the deductions unallowable. Thus, she also was not entitled to relief under Code Sec. 6015(c).
The taxpayer was not eligible for streamlined determination under
Rev. Proc. 2013-34, 2013-43 I.R.B. 397, because no evidence corroborated
her testimony that her former spouse had abused her in any sense to
which the tax law or common experience would accord any recognition. The
history of acrimony between the taxpayer and her ex-spouse called into
question the weight to be given to her claims of spousal abuse. Finally,
the taxpayer was unable to persuade the court that she was entitled to
equitable relief under Code Sec. 6015(f). She was intimately involved
with the LLC, knew or had reason to know of the items giving rise to the
understatement, and failed to make a good-faith effort to comply with
her income tax return filing obligations.