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Do I Qualify For Innocent Spouse Relief?


Many married taxpayers file joint tax returns, as doing so comes with certain tax-related benefits. There are, however, some limitations that come with filing taxes jointly. For instance, by filing jointly, taxpayers are agreeing to be held jointly and severally liable for any taxes that they owe, including interest and penalties. Basically, this means that each taxpayer can be held legally responsible for the entirety of a couple’s tax debt. This is true even if only one spouse earned income or is responsible for claiming improper deductions or credits. Fortunately, there are a few different ways that spouses can avoid being held responsible for each other’s tax debts, so if the IRS is seeking repayment of your spouse’s tax debt, it is important to speak with an experienced Florida tax & IRS attorney about whether you qualify for innocent spouse relief.

What is Innocent Spouse Relief?

Innocent spouse relief protects certain individuals from having to pay taxes incurred by their spouses, or former spouses, who fail to report income, reported their income improperly, or claimed improper deductions and credits. There are, however, strict requirements that a person will need to meet in order to qualify for innocent spouse relief.

Eligibility for Innocent Spouse Relief

A person is only eligible for innocent spouse relief if:

  • He or she filed a joint tax return with an understatement of tax that can solely be attributed to a spouse’s error;
  • He or she was unaware of the understatement; and
  • It would be unfair, considering the circumstances, to hold him or her liable for a spouse’s tax debt.

It’s important to note that taxpayers who think they qualify for innocent spouse relief still need to request it by filing Form 8857 within two years of the agency’s first attempt to collect the tax.

Injured Spouse vs Innocent Spouse

Unlike an innocent spouse claim, in which a claimant asks for relief from a spouse’s tax debt, an injured spouse claim, when granted, entitles a taxpayer to receive part of a joint refund. A person qualifies as an injured spouse if all, or part of, his or her share of a refund from a joint return was or will be applied against one of the following (owed by a spouse):

  • Separate past-due federal taxes;
  • Separate past-due state taxes;
  • Past-due child or spousal support; or
  • Federal non-tax debt, like a student loan.

Individuals who also qualify as injured spouses are often entitled to the recoupment of their share of a joint refund. Collecting these refunds can have important financial implications, so if you have questions about your own eligibility for an innocent or injured spouse claim, you should speak with a tax lawyer about your options as soon as possible.

Set Up a Consultation with an Experienced Tax Lawyer

To schedule a free one-on-one meeting with dedicated tax lawyer Ronald Cutler, P.A. please call our office at 386-490-9949. A member of our legal team is standing by to help you with your case.