Can You Get Spousal Relief For IRS Debt?

When you are married and you and your husband or wife files a joint income tax return, you are both, ultimately, responsible for that return. If you owe, the IRS is able to come after each of you for its money. In this case, who earned the most or who actually filed the return is of no consequence.

In some cases of a married couple filing jointly, a problem may occur and one spouse or the other feels entitled to relief. Perhaps your spouse did something and did not tell you, and now the IRS is on your back. IRS Publication 971 allows for tax relief in this sort of circumstance, under particular guidelines.

There are three procedures to follow for spousal tax relief. They are Separation of Liability, Innocent Spouse Relief, and Equitable Relief.

o Innocent Spouse Relief

If you think that some situations revolving around your spouse’s income tax make it unreasonable for you to pay the resulting tax debt, you can file IRS form 8857. You will need to explain, in detail, exactly what the circumstances are that make you believe it is unfair for you to pay this debt. You will be asked about your current relationship and if you signed the income tax return resultant in the liability.

You might be eligible if the income tax return was filed with an error that caused an understatement of the taxes due and you did not realize, or had no reason to consider this at the time you signed the income tax return.

You also may be eligible for Innocent Spouse Relief if you have requested tax relief within 2 years of the payment coming due. You could even be eligible for Innocent Spousal Relief if you simply believe that the facts of your situation make it unfair to ask that you pay.

You can get Innocent Spousal Relief even in the event that you are still married to this person.

o Equitable Relief

Equitable relief applies to unpaid taxes rather than mistakes on a return.

If your spouse abused you, you may qualify for Equitable Relief. If you did not stand to gain from your spouse not paying taxes, or you were in bad physical or mental condition at the time the return was signed, you could qualify. Also, you may qualify for Equitable Relief if you would suffer severe hardship by having to pay the money to the IRS.

o Separation of Liability

Divorce creates Separation of Liability. If you are getting divorced, you can ask to pay only the taxes based upon your income and not the tax liability as represented by the jointly filed return.

To receive relief under Separation of Liability, you must be divorced and be living separately for a year prior to filing for Separation of Liability.

Once you get married, you assume income tax responsibility of your spouse. At least IRS assumes that! However, if you face tax liability due to abuse by your spouse there are a number of remedies available. What are they? How to use them? Chintamani Abhyankar explains.

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