W&L Law Prof Helps Explain Tax Consequence of Garofalo’s Mystery Marriage

Michelle Drumbl, Associate Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Tax Clinic, Washington and Lee University School of Law

Michelle Drumbl, Associate Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Tax Clinic

Washington and Lee law professor Michelle Drumbl contributed her insight on tax law to a recent edition of Slate’s Explainer column, which examined the tax consequences of comedian and actress Janeane Garofalo’s recently revealed marriage.

Garofalo says she was married twenty years ago in what she thought was a sham ceremony in Las Vegas. It turns out the marriage was real, and Explainer columnist Brian Palmer wondered if that meant that Garofalo and her husband would need to file two decades worth of amended tax returns. The answer is no:

“The statute of limitations on honest mistakes in tax filing is three years, so Garofalo and Cohen are off the hook for 85 percent of their union. Even for the last three years, it probably wouldn’t make sense for the couple to amend their returns. Taxpayers have no legal obligation to notify the Internal Revenue Service of innocent errors, and the couple would likely owe more taxes plus interest if they were to amend.”

Drumbl, who directs W&L’s Tax Clinic, will publish an article in December in the Columbia Journal of Tax Law that explores similar issues. The article, titled “Decoupling Taxes and Marriage”, tackles the issue of joint and several liability for married couples filing joint returns, examining how the law creates an unfair conundrum for low-income taxpayers in particular.

Read the full Explainer column at slate.com.

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