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Joint Tax Refund Check: Payee Out of Country

I need to cash my tax return check. It has both my name and my wife's name on the check. She lives in the Philippines and I live in Oklahoma. How can I cash this check? I know I need both our signatures on the check. We do not have a joint checking account. Can she sign it there and mail it back, or does she have to have a notarized paper explaining?

There seem to be so many problems with jointly-payable tax refund checks! It's too bad the IRS doesn't have a form that spouses can sign that will split a refund into two checks, one to each spouse, at different addresses!

Actually, that's not so far-fetched an idea. Starting with taxes for calendar year 2006, the IRS allows tax refunds to be split into several direct deposits to different bank accounts, even at different banks, but your wife is in the Philippines, and I don't think the IRS's direct deposit service reaches there. Back to the practical and how to deal with what you've got -- ther are two possible solutions, if your bank tells you it will accept either of them.
  1. Send the check to your wife, and arrange for her to endorse it, sending it back to you with a photocopy of her government-issued picture ID. Then you can endorse it and deposit it to your account. This assumes you make your own arrangement with your wife on how she gets her piece of the refund.
  2. Ask your wife to grant you a power of attorney that describes the Treasury check (date, amount, check number) and authorizes you to endorse and negotiate the check on her behalf.
We hope your bank will work with you to help get this accomplished, but they are under no obligation to do so.

Published on 4/17/07