Can I file my boyfriend's taxes if he is in jail?

July 23, 2019 by Selena Quintanilla
1040 tax return with handcuffs laying on top

So, Selena... 

My boyfriend of five years is currently incarcerated. This will be our first full year away from each other, and I am at a loss for how to deal with so many things, but one of the biggest is taxes. Filing taxes is something that he would take care of for both of us.  

He was working prior to his arrest and earned a little over $20,000 for the year. That leads to two questions:

1) Are inmates required to file taxes?  
2) Can I file my boyfriend's taxes if he's in jail? 

- Sue 

So, Sue... 

It sounds like you’re going through a lot right now. The fact that you’re thinking about how the situation will impact how you file taxes proves that your mind is in the right place, which is admirable given your current situation. To answer your first question, yes, inmates are still responsible for filing taxes. This isn't something that most inmates need to worry about since they don’t usually make enough behind bars to warrant a filing requirement. The filing requirement for a single taxpayer in 2018 was generally $12,000. Since your boyfriend's income exceeded this amount, he would be required to file a tax return.  

The answer to your second question is yes and no. While you can certainly help your boyfriend file his taxes by compiling documents and completing necessary forms, you can’t actually sign and submit the return on his behalf. The completed return will need to be sent to him for review and a signature before it’s submitted to the IRS. If he’s willing, you can fill out a Power of Attorney form (Form 2848 on the IRS website) which will allow you to file his taxes without a signature. Additionally, your boyfriend can file taxes on his own with the help of jail staff. Since so much is out of his control at the moment, this may be his preference.  

Another thing to consider is the possibility of your boyfriend will be picking up work while in jail. If this is the case, please be aware that wages received for work while in a penal institution are not considered earned income for the purposes of eligibility for certain tax credits (i.e. Child Tax Credit) and contributing to IRA accounts, but they are still taxable and this income must be included in his tax return.  



Selena Quintanilla, CTEC
Communications Associate


Selena Quintanilla is a Communications Associate at TaxAudit, and a California Tax Education Council (CTEC) registered tax professional. She is now on a mission to bring clarity and comprehensibility to a topic that keeps us all up at night at least once a year-TAXES! Please, send coffee! 


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