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The Moneyist: I filed a tax return with my estranged spouse as a result of she's a gambler and her funds are a large number. However I do NOT have a stimulus verify – what can I do?

I am a full time student and 50 years old. I graduate in December 2020 and have a GPA of 4.0, so I'm working hard to achieve academic success. Because of these academic skills, I was limited to working hours throughout 2019 and my total income was $ 13,000.

I broke up with my wife Sharon four years ago. She inherited a $ 172,000 pension due to the premature death of her ex-husband. Sharon lives in Oklahoma and I live in Arkansas. Sharon had a gambling problem and exhausted all of that income during the 2019 tax season.

I have never seen anything else of this money other than a birthday cake, a gift and a night in the casino that she gave me as part of my birthday present. In November I was made aware that their money was gone. I wasn't happy, but it's her money and she has to live with it.

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To help her, I submitted a joint tax return.

Even though we are separated, we are good friends and I try to look for her in every possible way. We submitted in February and shortly afterwards the pandemic. Her $ 171,000 pension, $ 21,000 other income, $ 29,000 game win, and $ 13,000 annual salary have pushed us beyond the threshold for receiving CARES Act support.

I was kidnapped when I helped Sharon. Is there any form of complaint that I can file to get the $ 1,200 that I think I owe? If so, how can I? Will we miss the second stimulus if there is one?

I have been unemployed since April and due to the nationwide economic crisis, jobs are sparse to say the least. I hope to get a job at the university this fall in the work / study program, but that won't be until August, when we can be on campus.

At this point, it is suggested that the school resume normal operations in the fall, but we all know how this could suddenly change. To top it off, my income this year will be less than $ 13,000, and Sharon less than $ 20,000.

Mr. nice guy

Dear Mr. Nice,

Sometimes in letters I come across a "needle on vinyl" moment when the music suddenly stops and an all-powerful screeching of the steel sounds against the record. It is usually a moment that is critical to the problem and the solution and that is directly related to the financial problem and the emotional problem and hopefully helps to prevent you from making the same mistake again. Sometimes it seems that we are dealing with a completely different situation, but then we find that subsequent challenges are actually the same moment when "needle on vinyl" happens again and again.

"
"Did your wife appreciate it? She probably did and made you feel like a nice guy, and that's nice for a while. Plus, it's true! You are a nice guy. But is beauty also the most honorable? "

– The moneyist

Here was this moment: "To help her, I submitted a joint tax return." Your estranged wife has a gambling problem and you rushed in and helped her. Did your wife appreciate it? She probably did and made you feel like a nice guy, and that's nice for a while. Plus, it's true! You are a nice guy. But is beauty also the most honorable? Appreciation is like cotton candy. It tastes sweet, but disappears quickly, leaving a strange, sticky taste in your mouth that we can't exactly identify. Then you will realize that appreciation – like this fairground sugar on a stick – is both short-lived and cheap.

You weren't fooled. This is a fundamental mistake in your thinking and your interpretation of the CARES law. You made yourself punk, my friend. It was your decision to submit together and therefore it is your responsibility. They weren't kidnapped by the CARES law either. The stimulus check is effectively a tax credit for your 2020 income tax return, so by 2021 you should be complete. You won't receive your checks this year, but you shouldn't lose your stimulus entirely. If you submit your 2020 tax return as a single filing next year, you will likely receive the tax credit (s) at that time.

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Now in part “ethics and etiquette” of your question. This is the more difficult part. Sharon made the mistake. You took the fall. A shared problem is a halved problem, isn't it? If only the puzzles of life, math and government stimulus payments worked like that. If the solution addresses the symptoms rather than the cause, a shared problem is often a double, triple, and quadruple problem. It will always happen, my friend, until your wife looks at the source of her gambling addiction, provided another addiction does not occur and replaces it.

"
It will always happen, my friend, until your wife looks at the source of her gambling addiction, provided another addiction does not occur and replaces it.

– The moneyist

How many times has one of us thrown up our hands and called to the sky: "I was just trying to do the right thing!" That is not enough. We also have to ask ourselves: "Why did I do this?" Nobody wins. Your wife doesn't win: you enabled her to play another day. You don't win: you could have received $ 1,200 at a time when you clearly needed it to pay your bills. Why did you help her Why did you protect her Perhaps you can tell this story, create sympathy among friends and family who can shake their heads and say, "Once again, she did it wrong."

It is important to help people. That is what we do. But there is a line you can draw with your wife in the future, and there is another better way to help her by stepping back and telling her that she has to stand on her own and face her problems directly. You have not caused your gambling problem, you are not responsible for it and you cannot cure it. It is not your job. There's a valuable lesson here for you, my friend, and it's damn worth a lot more than $ 1,200.

You can email The Moneyist with financial and ethical questions about coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

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