Internal Revenue Service United States Department of the Treasury
Level Basic Advanced Military International

Filing Status

Filing Status Requirements

Responsibilities of Each Taxpayer on a Joint Return

Both taxpayers must include all worldwide income on their joint return. They each may be held responsible for all the tax and for any interest or penalty due, even if all the income was earned by only one spouse. A subsequent divorce usually does not relieve either spouse of the liability associated with the joint return.

In some cases, a spouse may be relieved of joint liability. This topic is beyond the scope of the VITA/TCE programs. Refer taxpayers in this situation to a professional tax preparer. For more information, see Publication 971, Innocent Spouse Relief. This publication can be downloaded from

More Information

For information on innocent spouse relief, see Publication 971, Innocent Spouse Relief.


Filing a joint return for a common law marriage applies to the federal return only. Volunteers must check state or local laws before completing a state return.

Publication 971

Publication 971