How a Spouse Can Cash a Joint Tax Refund

When it is time again for taxes, filing a joint return with your spouse may save you cash. The reason that some couples decide to file together is to receive special tax credits that they would not get as an individual. This type of refund will come from the IRS in the form of one refund check. Both names will be on the check and both parties are technically required to put their signature on the check before it can be cashed.

Concerns with Direct Deposit

Lately, many men and women are having the IRS deposit their refunds directly into their bank accounts. Once the money is there, it can be used or taken out by either spouse. There is no law that states that your spouse cannot have access or spend the refund, even if you happen to be the main wage earner for that tax year. When filing a tax return, there is an option for sending the refund to an individual account rather than a joint account in order to protect the funds once they are deposited.

Exception for Deceased Parties

If the return has already been sent to the Internal Revenue Service and one spouse dies before the refund is sent back, the spouse who survived does have the ability to cash the refund check themselves. In most cases, the surviving spouse will need to have a copy of the death certificate on hand as proof in order to cash the refund check. In the event the deceased does not have a surviving spouse, the refund check will then be placed into probate along with the estate. After probate is cleared, the refund may then be cashed using the clearance of probate paperwork and a death certificate. The executer of the estate will be required to sign the check and then take it to be cashed in person.

Power of Attorney Exemption

A power of attorney will allow a spouse to cash a refund check in a few circumstances, such as when the other party is in jail, out of the country or not available. The spouse must sign off on the power of attorney for it to be effective. A specific or general power of attorney will be enough for the bank. For those couples signing off on a specific power of attorney, there must be language within it that covers signing IRS refund checks. Additionally, a power of attorney will allow the spouse to handle different financial aspects while the other party cannot do so.

What Happens if a Check Gets Cashed Without a Signature?

There are options in the event a joint refund check gets cashed without both signatures. If a name has been forged on the check and the bank cashed it, fraud charges may be pressed against the guilty spouse. Under the IRS laws, it is a crime to cash a check without the signature of both parties. If a joint refund check has been cashed without the signature of the other spouse, this person has the right to get in contact with the state attorney general’s office or the Internal Revenue Service to start an investigation.

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