Laws about forged signatures on tax returns

Updated November 22, 2016

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) presumes that signatures on tax returns are legitimate unless the signature is challenged. During a divorce, partners sometimes have problems with their spouses forging their signatures on tax returns or refund checks. The spouse claiming forgery must prove his signature was forged without his consent to be released from liability related to the tax return.

IRS Classification

The IRS considers signatures to be valid unless challenged. The person claiming that her signature was forged must prove that the signature was not hers and that she did not authorise the forged signature. If she successfully proves her claim, the IRS removes her from the tax return and changes the status of the return to "married filing separately."

Tacit Consent

The IRS considers the forged signature legitimate if the spouse agreed to the forgery. If the couple has a habit of having one spouse sign both names and/or the spouse claiming a forgery did not file a separate return, the IRS considers it "tacit consent"---the spouse agreed to the forgery by his actions.

Liabilities, Refunds and Forgeries

The IRS presumes that both signatures are valid unless either party claims otherwise. Thus, both parties are held liable for balance due. If a spouse successfully proves that her signature was forged without her consent, she is released from tax liability related to the fraudulent return.

If a spouse forges the other spouse's signature on a refund check, the victimised spouse may ask the IRS to investigate. File form 3911 to find out the whereabouts of a check and if it has been cashed. The spouse must include a statement explaining why she thinks her signature has been forged on the check.

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About the Author

Jack Ori has been a writer since 2009. He has worked with clients in the legal, financial and nonprofit industries, as well as contributed self-help articles to various publications.