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Ask the taxgirl: Responsible for the debts of others?

July 6, 2009 · 8 comments

Taxpayer asks:

I own a house where I live with my boyfriend. I pay almost of the bills because he does not currently have a job. I’m working full time as a paralegal and I hope to go to law school some day. I really enjoy your blog.

Here’s my question. Because he’s not working, my boyfriend has some large debts including a huge ($100,000++) bill to the IRS. Can I be held responsible for any of those debts? I’m mostly concerned that the IRS may take my house since he is living there (he does not have any other place to go).

Taxgirl says:

The short answer to your first question is that no, you cannot be held responsible for your boyfriend’s tax debt just because he lives at your house. As to the other debts, I really don’t know – it depends on how the debts were accrued (if, for example, he used credit to buy the TV sitting in your house, then it may have to go back). Your boyfriend should consider getting a professional to help him sort that out.

(*throat clearing*)

Okay, now off comes the lawyer hat and on comes the mom hat. This is none of my business but since you wrote in, I’m going to say it anyway:

I understand that this isn’t a great economy. I understand that work is hard to find. And I understand that it may be easy to amass debt when you aren’t working.

But you don’t accrue a $100,000 tax bill as an individual by accident. That takes some doing. And the fact that you are paying all of the bills while your boyfriend lives with you with that kind of debt worries me more than just a little.

You’ve clearly made some good choices – you’re a homeowner, so you must have managed to keep your credit in better shape than your boyfriend’s. I think it’s great that you’re working full time as a paralegal – in this market, that’s pretty impressive. The fact that you still want to become a lawyer after working with them baffles me just a little… ;)

I hope, however, that you continue to make good choices. I don’t know your boyfriend’s situation – how long he’s been out of work, etc. – but I do know that focusing on his issues rather than yours is not going to get you very far. Put yourself first. Don’t sacrifice your own finances for your boyfriend. And for the love of Pete, don’t marry him until he has his ducks in a row.

There. Now I feel better. I wish you the best of luck!

Like any good lawyer, I need to add a disclaimer: Unfortunately, it is impossible to give comprehensive tax advice over the internet, no matter how well researched or written. Before relying on any information given on this site, contact a tax professional to discuss your particular situation.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 My Journey July 6, 2009 at 3:41 pm

I would love to know how he accrued $100K debt to the IRS!

The only additional advice I would give her, outside the realm of the law is to ask for his credit report and see what else is going on there. I would find it shocking that his only debt is to the IRS.

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