The late attorney Gary W. Bozick apparently wanted to control his wife, who was named Wendy. They lived in Illinois. And, according to a U.S. Tax Court decision rendered Tuesday:
"She had no bank accounts. She was not allowed by her husband to use a credit card. She was not allowed to open the mail. Her only interaction with the financial aspects of the household was to buy groceries with money her husband gave her in the form of hundred-dollar bills."
In 2003, Wendy earned about $1,000. Her husband earned $460,000. He also had a big credit card debt and a gambling problem, according to the Tax Court. Wendy apparently feared her husband would not file a return, so she filed a separate return. Then:
"When her husband found out, he became furious. He told her that filing separately rather than jointly would cost the family $17,000. Bozick’s husband then had the joint return prepared. He had Bozick sign it without giving her a chance to examine it. The return, filed on December 24, 2004, showed that the couple had a tax liability of $137,453."
In July 2005, evidently having had enough, Wendy filed for divorce. Gary Bozick's law firm broke up in December 2005. Bozick, following several years of illness, died of leukemia on April 22, 2006. The IRS soon came calling, demanding its money. Wendy sought innocent spouse relief. Clearly, she found a sympathetic audience in U.S. Tax Court Judge Richard T. Morrison.
The judge, rooting his decision in the painful details, points out that Wendy is having a hard time making ends meet. Two of her children live with her. She earns $8 an hour at Target. She can't afford to set the thermostat above 50 degrees. She is supporting her disabled mother.
Enough. Relief granted, Judge Morrison ruled.