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Spousal abuse: physical, financial and tax-related

He who controls the purse strings makes the rules.

2014 purple purseAlthough this popular quote uses "he" in the general, universal sense to make a money point, the pronoun is the operative word in most domestic violence cases. 

Not to get all wild-eyed feminist, but as the recent spousal abuse cases in the National Football League have underscored, women generally are the victims when relationships take a physical turn for the worse.

No money, continued abuse: In addition to physical violence, abused spouses and partners also often face financial abuse.

The spouse or partner who makes the most money uses that resource to further trap the victim. An abuser often limits the victim's access to money, doling out just enough so that the abused partner can barely make do in daily life.

The lack of financial resources is a major reason why domestic abuse survivors stay with a violent partner or return to the dangerous relationship. During recent social media discussions of domestic abuse, the problem of being trapped financially was detailed in many of the posts bearing the #WhyIStayed hashtag.

Purple Purse remedy: This financial dilemma is the focus of the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse program. It supports groups that work with domestic abuse victims, providing financial knowledge, skills and resources so that they can rebuild financial security and escape such relationships.

Kerry Washington, star of the popular ABC show "Scandal," is this year's spokesperson for Purple Purse. She talked about the effort with WXYZ-TV in Detroit.

Washington also designed a limited-edition purple handbag (that's it at the top of this post) to draw attention to the role of money in abusive relationships.

If you donate at least $10 to any organization in the Purple Purse Challenge, you'll be entered to win a drawing for a Washington-designed purse. Three will be given out each day.

Spousal tax troubles and possible relief: Financial abuse also is found in connection with taxes.

When a couple files a joint return, they face joint and several liability for any due taxes. This tax law means that the Internal Revenue Service can come after either spouse for payment of a tax bill.

So the husband who simply signed the 1040 is just as responsible for what is owed Uncle Sam as the wife, who was the one who filled out all the forms all on her own. And the wife still has to come up with a way to foot the bill even if she is in more dire financial circumstances than her spouse, who fudged a few things on the annual filing.

Think about that before you sign your next joint 1040. Also be sure to look it over closely before you affix your signature.

If you do find yourself in a tax mess because of a spouse's filing shenanigans, you might qualify for innocent or injured spouse relief.

But it's better to not have to ask for help after the fact. Talk with your husband or wife about your taxes before and during the filing process and definitely before you sign that next return!

IRS efforts against spousal abuse: If you find yourself in a situation where filing for spousal tax relief might trigger domestic abuse, the IRS has taken some important moves in this area.

When a taxpayer files Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief, the agency wants the worried filer to check the box in Part 3 of the form (line 10). This will tell the IRS that the relief seeking filer has been an abuse victim and fears that innocent spouse consideration could produce retaliation.

The 8857 form also asks in Part V for additional information on the abusive situation that might have played a part in the tax situation.

Domestic abuse questions on Form 8857
Click image to download PDF of Form 8857 instructions. Details on spousal abuse tax situations are on page 6 of Form 8857 itself.

And while the IRS is required by law to notify your spouse (or ex) with whom you filed the 1040 in question that a request for relief has been filed, the agency says it will keep your personal identifying information -- current name, address, and employment-related information-- confidential ... and vice versa.

This means that the IRS cannot disclose one person's information to the other person.

I hope you don't have to use 8857. And I hope even more that you never suffer financial or physical abuse in any relationship. But if you do, please, please, please get help as soon as you can.

You also might find these marriage related posts of interest:


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