If you owe tax balances on a Married Filing Jointly tax return, it’s important to pay attention to who is listed as the primary Taxpayer and who is listed as the Spouse to avoid an IRS headache.
When you file a Married Filing Jointly tax return, there is a primary Taxpayer listed and a Spouse listed together with their corresponding Social Security numbers. The primary Taxpayer is whoever is listed first on the tax return. This does not have to be the one with more income or who owes or pays more in tax. There is no right way to designate the primary Taxpayer vs. Spouse, and how it is done does not change how the taxes are calculated.
It is recommended that you list spouses in the same order on tax returns each year for consistency. This can help avoid IRS confusion and issues which may come in the form of delays in processing the return and refund requests.
You should also be mindful of who the primary Taxpayer vs. Spouse is on the tax return for payment purposes. When remitting a payment to the IRS, you should be sure to use the primary Taxpayer’s name and Social Security number when doing so. We have seen on several occasions payments remitted under the Spouse’s name and social security number that are not correctly credited to the Married Filing Jointly account, which can result in the IRS erroneously sending the accounts into collections and assessing penalties and interest. Working to get the issue resolved can often then require several telephone calls and hours on hold with the IRS.
As we enter the Tax Return preparation season, save yourself the headache and anxiety of an IRS Issue and be mindful of who you designate as the primary Taxpayer and Spouse on your Married Filing Jointly tax return.