When a person dies owing the IRS a lot of money is his wife responsible for the debt?

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There are several IRS publications that may help you. Get them on the web at IRS.gov First, there is a concept called "innocent spouse relief" that you can read about in Pub 971. Others deal with deceased spouses in general and they are Pub 554 and Pub 501. The answer is generally, Yes. Presuming it isn't a purely business tax, from an incorporated business, but rather taxes the both of you were personally responsible for, you filed joint returns, your liable for the deficit.
Understand, innocent spouse relief is NOT ignorant spouse relief!
The fact you didn't know, understand, approve, etc makes no difference. If the money that was misreported went to your benefit - that is paid for your house, vacations, lifestyle, etc...then you owe the tax on it. You should have understood that if you were living a lifestyle of spending $X, and your joint return was reporting something that wouldn't reasonably support that, it was wrong and you shouldn't have signed it...and even though "he took care of those matters" doesn't work. It was your responsibility and the Gov't didn't release you because you wanted him to do it. Apparently he didn't do it well. That's now your responsibility.
To get innocent spouse relief you better be able to show your spouse had something like a second life you didn't know about. That his concubine in the condo in Florida and the convertible to bring her to the Spa was where that money went...AND you really didn't know about it...not that you were a wife that just ignored it, for the quid pro quo of having the life you wanted.
You must show that he was a rotten scoundrel and took you as well as society...basically to get himself pleasure. You prepared to do that? Sorry for being so blunt, but that's the facts.
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