Do Not be Held Responsible for Your Spouse’s Tax Liability
The modern tax code dictates that spouses are jointly and severally liable for the taxes they owe. Joint and several liability means that the Internal Revenue Service will collect the entire liability from either spouse or may collect a portion of the liability from each spouse.
In some circumstances, it is unfair to hold a spouse liable for a joint tax liability. Questions that need to be addressed include:
- Do you owe more than $30,000 in tax debt?
- Are you divorced, or have you been separated for more than 12 months?
- Has the IRS contacted you about paying back taxes for a return you filed with your former spouse?
If so, you may qualify for innocent spouse relief. We have a free resource dedicated to this very issue because we have helped numerous individuals get out from under the tax burden left behind by their spouses.
The IRS provides for relief from marital joint and several liability in situations where a joint return has been filed and one spouse believes they should not be held responsible for liabilities caused by their partner (or former partner). To obtain relief, you must file an application on Form 8857 with the IRS.
Innocent spouse relief is available for both underpayments of tax shown on a tax return and for understatements of income tax as determined by the Internal Revenue Service. If the spouses did not file a joint return, relief may still be available.
An individual who lives in a “community property state,” such as Washington, may be able to obtain relief if they did not know about the income attributable to the other spouse.
The rules surrounding innocent spouse relief are complex, but in general, a spouse should be relieved of liability if it is clearly inequitable to hold the requesting spouse liable after considering all of the facts and circumstances of the situation. Under some circumstances, an allocation of the liability between the spouses may be available.