Qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief or Injured Spouse Allocation

When a married couple files a joint tax return, both individuals are equally responsible for all taxes owed if there is a balance due. But there are some cases where you may be innocent of your spouse's tax debts, and the IRS has tax relief available for you.

Innocent Spouse Relief

What if your spouse or ex-spouse, on a past joint tax return, lied about their income or underpaid taxes without your knowledge, and now you are being held responsible for someone else's tax debt? In that case, you can apply for Innocent Spouse Relief.

If you qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief, you will not be held responsible for your spouse or ex-spouse's unpaid taxes.

Do You Qualify as an Innocent Spouse?

You may qualify as an Innocent Spouse if all of the following are true:

  1. You filed a joint return.
  2. Your spouse or former spouse improperly reported income on the joint return.
  3. When you signed the joint return, you did not know, and had no reason to know, that the tax return was incorrect.
  4. Due to the circumstances, it would be unfair to hold you liable for the unpaid taxes.

Other Types of Innocent Spouse Relief

If you do not meet all of the requirements listed above for classic Innocent Spouse Relief, you may still qualify for another type of tax relief for innocent spouses. The IRS will determine which type of tax relief you qualify for.

Relief by Separation of Liability

You may qualify for Relief by Separation of Liability If you are divorced, separated, or widowed, and you did not live with your ex-spouse for at least 12 months before filing your request. In this case, the IRS will assign a certain amount of the tax liability to you, and a certain amount to your ex-spouse. You will only be responsible for your portion of the tax debt, along with a portion of the interest and penalties.

Equitable Relief

There are many circumstances which may disqualify you from classic Innocent Spouse Relief, but which should not keep you from getting the tax relief you deserve. Examples include having had to file separately due to state community property laws, and having had knowledge of your spouse's tax fraud--even if you were afraid to question your spouse about it due to fear of physical abuse. The IRS may grant you Equitable Relief in some of these situations.

There is a long list of rules that guide the IRS on whether to grant Equitable Relief. Generally, you may qualify for it if you did not sign the fraudulent joint return with the intention of committing fraud, or if you signed it under duress (for example, if you were an abused spouse). If the IRS grants you Equitable Relief, you may not be held responsible for the unpaid taxes, and you may even get a refund of some of what you have already paid.

Good News for Innocent Spouses Claiming Equitable Relief!

Under IRS guidelines issued in 2012, there is no longer a time limit on claims of Innocent Spouse Equitable Relief. This means that if you did not request relief for an earlier year due to the old 2-year time limit on claims, you may now make a request. Also, if you did make a claim and it was rejected because of the time limit, you may now make a new request.

How Do I Request Innocent Spouse Relief?

If you believe you qualify as an Innocent Spouse, file Form 8857 - Request for Innocent Spouse Relief.

You can prepare and efile Form 8857 efile it on efile.com, but you may need to file it on paper if you are attaching additional documentation.

Injured Spouse Allocation

What if you filed a joint return and, instead of getting a tax refund, your money is applied to the past tax debts (or other debts such as child support or student loans) of your spouse? You may be able to get your share of that money back by requesting an Injured Spouse Allocation.

Do You Qualify as an Injured Spouse?

You may qualify as an Injured Spouse if both of the following are true:

  1. You are not personally required to pay the past-due debt.
  2. During the year in question, you had earned income that was reported on a Form 1040, or had income taxes withheld from your pay, or made estimated tax payments.

How Do I Request an Injured Spouse Allocation?

If you believe you qualify as an Injured Spouse, file Form 8379 - Injured Spouse Allocation.

You can prepare Form 8379 efile it online and efile it using efile.com, but you may need to paper file this form if you attach any additional documentation.

More Tax Information About Marriage and Divorce

Married? Learn about the ramifications of marriage on your taxes.

Divorced? Find out how divorce or separation affects your taxes.

Did an ex-spouse claim your dependent on their tax return?

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