27.4 Estimates by Husband and Wife
A married couple may pay joint or separate estimated taxes. The nature of the estimated tax does not control the kind of final return you file.
Where a joint estimated tax is paid but separate tax returns are filed, you and your spouse can decide on how to divide the estimated payments between you. Either one of you can claim the whole amount, or you can agree to divide it in any proportion. If you cannot agree, the IRS will allocate the estimated taxes proportionally according to the percentage of total tax each spouse owes.
If separate estimated taxes are paid, overpayment by one spouse is not applied against an underpayment by the other when separate final returns are filed.
A joint estimated tax may be made by a husband and wife only if they are both citizens or residents of the United States. Both must have the same taxable year. A joint estimate may not be made by a couple who are divorced or legally separated under a decree. If a joint estimate is made and the spouses are divorced or legally separated later in that year, they may divide the joint payments between them under the above rule for spouses who file separately.
Prior-year safe harbor. If you filed separately for 2010 but expect to file a joint 2011 return, your 2010 total tax for purposes of determining the required 2011 annual payment under the prior-year safe harbor (27.2) is the total tax for both of you on the 2010 separate returns.
If you and your spouse filed jointly for 2010 but expect to file separately for 2011, you must figure your share of the 2010 joint return tax to apply the prior-year safe harbor. Figure the tax that each of you would have paid on separate returns for 2010 and then divide the tax on your separate return by the total tax for both separate returns. For example, if you would have paid tax of $7,000 on a separate 2010 return and your spouse would have paid $3,000 on a separate return, your 70% share ($7,000/$10,000) is the share of the 2010 joint return tax that you take into account in applying the prior-year safe harbor. Your spouse's share of the 2010 joint return tax is 30%.
If a joint estimated tax is made and one spouse dies, the estate does not continue to make installment payments. The surviving spouse is required to pay the remaining installments unless he or she amends the joint estimate. Amounts paid on the joint estimate may be divided as agreed upon by the spouse and the estate of the deceased. If they do not agree, the IRS will apportion the payments according to the percentage of the total tax owed by each spouse.
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