Tax Relief for Survivors

tax-optionsTax season is no one’s favorite time of the year – and an abusive relationship (whether you’re in one, planning on leaving, or have recently left) complicates it even further.

Fortunately, there are a few economic resources that can be powerful tools in changing your circumstances for the better. Filing tax returns and seeking income tax credit refunds can help you pull together funds that may be needed to leave an abusive relationship or begin financial independence after leaving.

This may seem like a difficult process, but it’s doable! If you’re not familiar with filing taxes, check out the Get Help section at the bottom of this post for resources.

When and why should you file a tax return?

  • When you have a certain amount of income – either your own or, if married, the income of a spouse
  • To receive tax benefits (i.e. refund or tax credits)
  • To establish a separate tax “existence” from a spouse or ex
  • To help save up money (ex. if you’re planning on leaving)

Concerns about tax refunds

What are your rights?

  • To see and understand the entire return before signing a joint return
  • To refuse to sign a joint return (married people don’t have to file together)
  • To request an automatic 4-month extension of time to file
  • To get copies of prior year returns from the IRS

Three Federal Tax Credits You May be Eligible For:

1) Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

  • This is a wage supplement for low- and moderate-income workers.
  • You must have some earned income.
  • You must be a citizen, legal resident, or be married to one.
  • You must have a valid SSN.
  • Can claim this if you file as “Married Filing Jointly,” “Single,” “Head of Household,” but NOT “Married Filing Separately”
  • To claim children with this, the child must be related, adopted or a foster child. The child must live with you for over half the year. The child must be under 19 (24 if a student, and no age limit if disabled)
  • EITC is not counted as income in most public benefit programs including: TANF, SSI, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps), Medicaid, CHIP, and federally assisted housing. Receipt of the credit will not affect your eligibility for such benefits. Read more about keeping your benefits.

2) Child Tax Credit

  • This is intended to help offset some costs of raising children.
  • You can claim up to $1,000 per child. The child must be claimed as a dependent, and the age limit is 17.
  • Married survivors can file jointly or separately.
  • If you don’t owe enough taxes to use all of the Child Tax Credit, you may be eligible for a refund.

3) Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

  • This can help you meet your child and dependent care expenses.
  • The care has to be employment-related (If money was spent on childcare while a parent was working or looking for work)
  • The percentage of eligible expenses you can claim is based on adjusted gross income.

Three Types of Relief You May Be Eligible For:

1) Innocent Spouse Relief
If you’re faced with tax debt or burden because of something your spouse did wrong on a jointly filed tax return, you could be eligible for this. There are different categories and different procedures for filing.

2) Relief By Separation
This involves separating the understatement of tax (plus interest and penalties) on your joint return between you and your (former or current) spouse

3) Equitable Relief
You may still be relieved of responsibility for tax/interest/penalties through this type of relief if you are not eligible for the other types.

Get Help

Further Resources

Everyone’s circumstances are different, so we encourage you to consult the resources in this post and take advantage of the programs designed to help with your situation. While our advocates at the hotline are not able to give legal or tax advice, we can talk to you about what’s going on, discuss possible courses of action, and refer you to the best resources for legal help. Feel free to give us a call anytime, 24/7, at 1-800-799-7233.

when money becomes a form of power and control

When Money Becomes a Form of Power and Control

Imagine getting an allowance when you were a young kid. Maybe you’d get a dollar or two every week — you’d hide it away to save up for something big, or you’d feverishly rush to the store and spend it all at once and quickly fall into sugar shock from your candy purchases.

Now imagine getting an allowance as an adult. This time not from your parents, but from your partner. This allowance comes not with excitement and joy, but with feelings of confinement, frustration and maybe resentment. Maybe this is enough to buy necessities, but it might not be — and your partner always checks the receipts.

Money can be a stressful factor in any relationship. When there are intermingling finances, bills to be paid and considerations to be made about saving for the future, money can become a source of conflict. In a healthy relationship, each partner feels like they have a say in decision-making, even when it comes to money.

In a relationship where some form of abuse is present — whether physical or emotional — it is not uncommon that an abusive partner extends their power and control into the area of finances. This is known as economic or financial abuse and it can be very difficult to recognize. It can be something as seemingly innocent as an abuser telling their partner what they can and cannot buy, or something as major as an abuser restricting a partner’s access to bank accounts.

This abuse can take different forms, including:

  • Giving an allowance and closely watching how their partner spends it or demanding receipts for purchases
  • Placing the partner’s paycheck in their bank account and denying them access to it
  • Preventing their partner from viewing or having access to bank accounts
  • Forbidding their partner to work or limiting the hours that they can work
  • Maxing out credit cards in their partner’s name without permission or not paying the bills on credit cards, which could ruin their significant other’s credit score
  • Stealing money from their partner or their partner’s family and friends
  • Using funds from children’s savings accounts without their partner’s permission
  • Refusing to give their partner money, food, clothing, gas or medicine
  • Living in their partner’s home but refusing to work or contribute to the household
  • Making their partner give them their tax returns or confiscating joint tax returns

When an abusive partner is in control of the finances, planning for an independent future without them can feel difficult. Thankfully, there are many organizations that aid survivors of domestic violence and financial abuse. These groups can help create plans that will support a victim who is attempting to leave and can also help them become economically stable and self-sufficient after leaving.

No one should prevent you from having access to the money that you earn. If your partner is acting in any of these ways, call us at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Our advocates can help you come up with ways to save money and can also connect you with local programs. Stay tuned for a post on Thursday to learn about these organizations and about tips for economic safety within your relationship.