Innocent Spouse Tax Relief

innocent-spouse-tax-reliefDo I qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief, Equitable Relief, or Separation of Liability?

When married taxpayers file a joint tax return they both become jointly and severally liable any tax liability resulting from the return which include penalties and interest.

Joint and Several liability means the IRS can collect the entire liability from either taxpayer or could collect a portion of the liability from each of the taxpayers.  Even when those same taxpayers later divorce, they both remain jointly and severally liable for that tax liability.

How To File Innocent Spouse Tax Relief

First Look Into: Innocent Spouse Tax Relief

Both taxpayers will remain liable even if only one of the persons earned the income or claimed improper deductions or credits.  A divorce decree does not destroy the IRS’ right to collect from the taxpayers, thus it cannot break the Joint and Several liability.

Three Types Of Spouse Tax Relief

innocent-spouse-reliefFirst Look Into: Innocent Spouse Tax Relief

There are three types of relief from joint and several liability for spouses who filed joint tax returns:

1) 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 is solely attributable to your spouse’s erroneous item. An “erroneous item” includes income received by your spouse but which was omitted from the joint return. Deductions, credits, and property basis are also erroneous items if they are incorrectly reported on the joint return
  • You establish that at the time you signed the joint return you did not 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 of tax

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2) Separation of Liability Relief provides for the allocation of additional tax owed between you and your former spouse or your current spouse from whom you are separated because an item was not reported properly on a joint return. The tax allocated to you is the amount for which you are responsible.

To qualify for “separation of liability relief” you must have filed a joint return and must meet one of the following requirements at the time you request relief:

  • You are divorced or legally separated from the spouse with whom you filed the joint return
  • You are widowed or
  • You have not been a member of the same household as the spouse with whom you filed the joint return at any time during the 12-month period ending on the date you request relief

If, at the time you signed the joint return, you had actual knowledge of the item that gave rise to the understatement of tax, you do not qualify for separation of liability relief.

3) Equitable Relief may apply when you do not qualify for innocent spouse relief or separation of liability relief for something not reported properly on a joint return and generally attributable to your spouse. You may also qualify for equitable relief if the correct amount of tax was reported on your joint return but the tax was not paid with the return.

If you do not qualify for “innocent spouse relief” or “separation of liability relief” you may still qualify for “equitable relief”. To qualify for equitable relief you must establish that, under all the facts and circumstances, it would be unfair to hold you liable for the understatement or underpayment of tax.

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