Specializing in tax resolution and small business accounting.

Innocent Spouse Relief

Get relief from liability for your spouse’s tax debt.

Many married taxpayers choose to file a joint tax return because of certain benefits this filing status allows them. When filing jointly, both taxpayers are jointly and severally liable for the tax and any additions to tax, interest, or penalties that arise from the joint return even if they later divorce. Joint and several liability means that each taxpayer is legally responsible for the entire liability. Thus, both spouses on a married filing jointly return are generally held responsible for all the tax due even if one spouse earned all the income or claimed improper deductions or credits. This is also true even if a divorce decree states that a former spouse will be responsible for any amounts due on previously filed joint returns. In some cases, however, a spouse can get relief from being jointly and severally liable.

Innocent Spouse Relief provides you relief from additional tax you owe if your spouse or former spouse failed to report income, reported income improperly or claimed improper deductions or credits.

You must meet all of the following conditions to qualify for innocent spouse relief:

  • You filed a joint return that has an understatement of tax (deficiency) that’s solely attributable to your spouse’s erroneous item. An erroneous item includes income received by your spouse but omitted from the joint return. Deductions, credits, and property basis are also erroneous items if they’re incorrectly reported on the joint return
  • You establish that at the time you signed the joint return you didn’t know, and had no reason to know, that there was an understatement of tax and
  • Taking into account all the facts and circumstances, it would be unfair to hold you liable for the understatement

Injured Spouse vs. Innocent Spouse

An injured spouse claim is for allocation of a refund of a joint refund while innocent spouse is for relief or allocation on a joint and several liability of a joint return. You’re an injured spouse if all or part of your share of a refund from a joint return was or will be applied against the separate past-due federal tax, state tax, child support, or federal non-tax debt (such as a student loan) owed by your spouse. If you’re an injured spouse, you may be entitled to recoup your share of the refund.

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