It appears that comedian and actress Janeane Garofalo did not know she was married for 20 years. The idea of not knowing something this significant sounds absurd, the fact that she may owe the IRS back taxes for her nuptials may not be. A Slate/Explainer article titled Does Janeane Garofalo Have to Amend 20 Years of Tax Returns? attempts to answer whether she and her “husband” will be required to amend 20 years of tax returns due to their marital status. As someone who solves IRS problems on a daily basis, I didn’t think Slate’s legal team gave a complete answer. Below are some points I wanted to add to the discussion:
According to Slate, Garofalo and writer and producer Rob Cohen got married in what they thought was a 1990’s, Las Vegas “sham wedding.” Since this news hit the airwaves a few weeks back, the couple has annulled the marriage in Nevada. They will most likely not have to amend 20 years of back taxes but could face an IRS audit and pay fines, interest, or IRS penalties.
Slate’s legal team did not mention tax representation in their article yet they will play an integral role should Cohen and Garofalo get audited. I would have advised anyone looking at a potential IRS tax problem, to consult a qualified tax attorney to discuss this matter – especially if their case might involve an IRS audit. Instead the team offered the following: “If the IRS decides to audit the couple, the most likely result is that they’ll pay the higher married rate. No penalty will apply, because they made an honest mistake and acted in good faith.” Here is why that comment may be a bit naive:
- The IRS is the most brutal collections agency on the planet–always has been and always will be. As I have written about in previous posts, the wealthy are often a target of taxing authorities because that’s where the money is.
- There is no “honest mistake” in the IRS eyes that will dissolve any one taxpayer’s back taxes.
- Representing yourself in an IRS audit is not something you do by yourself, especially if you are a high-profile, wealthy celebrity. You will get creamed.
For those who have experienced unusual circumstances (such as a death or serious illness of a loved one or natural disasters) and as a result, failed to pay back taxes, are more likely to get penalty relief from the IRS. A sham marriage 20 years ago in Las Vegas may not qualify.
However, if Garofalo and Cohen pick a good tax expert to represent them and choose their words correctly, they stand a good chance of a substantial penalty reduction should they get audited. A seasoned tax attorney or Certified Tax Resolution Specialist typically takeover all communications with the IRS typically resulting in an IRS tax settlement that taxpayers can live with.
More Tax Help, IRS News and Tax Relief Tips:
- Michael Rozbruch Interviewed in Opportunist Magazine
- Talking Tax Resolution with Fox 11 Tony Valdez
- IRS Offers Tax Help Tips-Worker Classification
- Five Tips to Resolving Payroll Tax Problems
- IRS Bankruptcy-Five Tax Relief Options for Back Taxes