Can the IRS garnish a wife's wages if her husband did not file taxes when he was self employed and they are now separated?

Yup tax things can be awfully complex...add a little contract law..divorce law and more to the pot and things can get exceptionally murky!

However, I think the realistic answer basically comes down to: If when you were married you filed separate returns, your OK. Proving you correctly filed for the period to the IRS should absolve you.

If you filed joint returns and this tax deficency is from that time, (or you were actually a part of the business and that is where the tax problem arises) you may well have the liability too, which they of course may process to collect as needed. There is a defense called "innocent spouse relief". To use it you must have not only been unknowing about the tax failure, but able to show your financial knowlege is limited such you really couldn't be expected to understand what was going on....and more importantly - this is frequently a big hurdle...that you did not really benefit from the failure. (Basically, something like he hid the earnings from you, and spent them on his girlfriend....AND the $1,000,000 lifestyle you enjoyed wasn't after signing a joint return showing $10,000 of income, which anyone should question).

Agreeably you MAY have some recourse available in the divorce decree, but even if you do, it will likely be against your ex-husband, and only a very understanding IRS agent would accept it to relieve you.