With Tax Day coming up we solicited stories about people who found out a secret about their spouse through doing their taxes. I was shocked by some of the submissions we received.
Almost half of the essays were written by women who discovered that their husbands were making more money than they told their wives. In some cases the men were hording money to the detriment of the family—the kids needed new shoes or braces and the family couldn't afford them. Two women wrote about how they worked full-time (one even took on a second job) and put all their money into the family fund. These women had no idea that their husbands were squirreling money away for their mistresses, their gambling addictions or loan to friends and family members who didn't plan to pay the money back.
In almost every instance the men did the taxes (or had an accountant take care of them), and the women found out about the deception by accident. They picked up the tax forms when their husband worked late and took a curious glance through, and saw $25,000 extra they couldn't account for, or found out he'd claimed nine exemptions when it was just the two of them. These women trusted their husbands, and it didn't occur to them that their loved one could be lying to them.
Here are some excerpts from the submissions we received:
The accountant for the business died, and I insisted upon preparing our own tax papers. I found out that for each of the six years we had been married, my father-in-law had claimed both of us as dependents. There was nothing on the records about the social security we would one day rely upon after retirement. The other secret was that Mike received fifty percent more than what I was led to believe. After shouting, insults, tears, and threats of divorce, I learned that he'd lost the money bets at the pool tables, and he'd given the rest to "friends" who'd never bothered to repay the loans.
When my husband came home was shocked that I had not only picked up the taxes, but that I had discovered his secret. Not only was he receiving over 25,000 dollars a year in consulting fees but he was placing this money in a private bank account that I was unaware of. His private bank account ended up having over 375,000 dollars in it.
Later in the year I decided to ask him one week if I could see one of his paycheck stubs, I found a huge difference in the yearly net and the amount of money I had recorded in my private journal. All kinds of things would go through my mind: another woman, Gambling? What was he spending all this money on? We could have really used the money for our family. Our children needed braces, new glasses every year, and I couldn't understand how he was comfortable with himself knowing how we were struggling financially as a family.
It was not until we had our taxes done that I discovered we owed the IRS quite a bit more than I had anticipated. My husband making more money than I had been led to believe… I was angry with him and I was angry with myself for being so naive. To think I scrimped and saved and went without to help him afford to keep a mistress was more than I could bear.
We've written about financial infidelity, but we usually cover it from the female perspective—women who shop from the joint account and hide the receipts so their husbands won't know about their profligate ways. But the reverse financial is apparently more common than I thought.
What I took away from these essays is that if you let your spouse handle all the money you should always look at your tax return—even if you love and trust your him or her. Marriage is, in a large sense, about money—when you marry you merge your finances, so his credit is your credit, and vice versa. Husbands and wives are equally affected by one another's money habits, so you need to have a thorough understanding of your financial situation.