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Posted by Jim McClaflin, EA, NTPI Fellow, CTRC

Innocent Spouse Relief

Innocent Spouse Relief

Since couples can file their taxes jointly, some partners purposely neglect their tax duties which explains the reasons the innocent spouse relief law was enacted. The program is a way to prevent innocent spouses from paying debt, interest, or penalty if their partner or ex-partner owes the IRS through tax return errors like incorrect income numbers, improper deductions, or credit. You can refer to Innocent spouse relief as injured spouse relief. 

How to Qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief?

The process is tedious because the IRS is fond of rejecting pleads, and it takes at least six months to process. However, you can check the procedure with an IRS document called Publication 971 for more details. In addition, this article provides five top points about qualifying for injured spouse relief.

  1. You must be filing joint taxes.

  2. The error is a result of your partner or ex.

  3. You must have evidence.

  4. The evidence must vindicate you.

  5. Finally, you're to get the form before two years starting from when the IRS starts its investigation. There are exceptions to this rule.

Injured spouse relief is for married couples filing joint tax returns. The IRS only accepts missing income if your partner receives it and not you. Also you must be able to prove to the court that when signing the report, you had no idea or noticed the omission leading to reducing your tax responsibilities.

The IRS investigation is thorough. They scrutinize every mistake on your financial status, your involvement in the fraud leading to the problem, and check your educational background. Furthermore, they will look for possible connections to a bigger conspiracy, and other suspicious factors. In addition, the office practices fairness in this case by ran-sacking everything to ensure you didn't have a hand in the understatement. They also check if you are separated from your spouse or if your spouse deserted you.  

How Do I File the Report With the IRS

You'll need the IRS Form 8857 to get an innocent spouse's relief attention. Another way is to forget this bulky form and send a handwritten and signed note with the same information to the IRS. 

Uncle Sam will conclude your tax responsibilities. If you're thinking of getting an innocent spouse relief form, here are some things to consider:

  • The IRS will inform your partner or ex-partner about your intention to file for the innocent spouse. The IRS will request your spouse or ex-spouse to send documents regarding the issue. If you fear for your safety, the IRS has a hotline, 800-799-7233 you can call or chat with an agent at www.thehotline.org.

  • Your spouse or ex-spouse will submit the taxes, interests and penalties to the IRS.

  • You will receive a refund of your share of the missing money from the IRS.

  • If the IRS finds a tax, interest and penalties portion that does not stand under innocent spouse relief, they will share it with you and your spouse or ex.

  • Certain taxes, like married couples sharing payment responsibilities and some types of employment responsibilities, are not qualified under innocent spouse relief. 


Available Innocent Spouse Relief

There are two options for people who do not qualify for the scheme.

  1. Separation of liability relief you and your spouse or ex pay their own share of the tax bill by law. However, you can only qualify if you are a divorcee, separated under the law, or widowed and have lived with the person for up to 12 months before requesting the innocent spouse. 

  2. Equitable relief is for those filing separately but still in trouble because the region considers the income shared. However, you can qualify for the benefit if the report was accurate but not paid.



Jim McClaflin, EA, NTPI Fellow, CTRC
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