Tax Solutions

Innocent Spouse Relief

You may have been told that signing a joint return obligates you to pay a spouse’s tax debt, but that isn’t always the case. You may qualify for relief from a joint tax debt.

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“Getting rid of joint tax debt from an ex-spouse can be another difficult part of the process of separating or divorce. Luckily, the IRS has Innocent Spouse Relief programs that may be helping relief you from an underreporting or underpayment of tax with an ex. ”

- Alyssa Maloof Whatley

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Pro Tip:

Beware of complications.

Even if this feels like your situation, Innocent Spouse Relief can still be hard to come by from the IRS because the rules surrounding granting it are complicated and subjective. Before attempting to petition the IRS to open an innocent spouse investigation, speak to a qualified tax attorney about your specific situation and explore all your available options.

What Is Innocent Spouse Relief?

When you’re married and file tax returns jointly with your spouse, your signature on that return obligates you to pay any taxes due. The same is true if, during an audit of your joint return, there is a determination that you owe additional taxes, penalties, or interest.

You and your spouse are now equally responsible for the tax debt and the IRS will pursue both of you – even after legal separation or divorce.

Even after the end of your marriage, you will still be subject to all the means of collection the IRS has at its disposal, including bank levies, wage garnishments, and tax liens.

In other words, the IRS takes your joint filing status very seriously.

However, you may be eligible for Innocent Spouse Relief if you “didn’t have reason to know” about the error or issue that led to the tax indebtedness or that to hold you to account for the debt would be “unfair.”

What Qualifies Me For Innocent Spouse Relief?

There are three types of innocent spouse relief available from the IRS:

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Innocent spouse

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Relief by Separation of Liability

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Equitable Relief

Under each type of relief, there is a complicated set of broadly defined and subjective standards that need to be met to qualify. From not having “reason to know,” to domestic abuse, to future compliance are all considerations made during an innocent spouse investigation.

Though the investigation itself is facts-based, the interpretation of those facts is often up to the individual investigator. Each year, many apply for Innocent Spouse Relief and very few have their requests granted.

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Can I Appeal If My Request For Innocent Spouse Relief Is Denied?

Yes. The IRS has a process for requesting a review of an unfavorable determination. Even in the face of a denial, you still have options available to you.

If you challenge the decision and it can’t be resolved favorably at the administrative level, you have the right to have your petition reviewed by the U. S. Tax Court.

What Happens If I Marry Someone Who Has Tax Debt?

If you marry someone who owes back taxes and you file a joint return, your refund can be protected under the injured spouse relief provisions in the tax law and won’t go toward satisfying your spouse’s existing tax debt.