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Ronald Cutler, P.A. Ronald Cutler P.A.
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How to Relieve Yourself From Your Partner’s Tax Liability


When spouses choose to file their tax return jointly, they are essentially acknowledging that they will take care of the full amount of tax liability together, which includes paying any fines for mistakes or late filing. Fortunately, it is possible to relieve yourself of your partner’s tax liabilities in certain situations, so if you and your spouse filed your tax return together, but you believe that you should not be held responsible for all or part of a tax debt, please contact an experienced tax attorney who can explain your legal options.

Filing Form 8857 

By filing a joint income tax return, a couple agrees to take on the entire tax liability together. This is true for not only the tax liability on the return, but also any debt that the IRS decides is due at a later date, even if the additional tax relates to only one spouse’s income, deductions, or credits. In fact, even if a couple divorces, both parties can be held responsible for any tax liability.

Fortunately, spouses can escape liability by filing Form 8857, although they must do so within two years after the IRS’s first attempt to collect the tax. In most cases, a taxpayer becomes aware of liability after the IRS:

  • Examines the couple’s tax return and proposes an increase in tax liability; or
  • The IRS sends a notice to the taxpayer notifying him or her of additional tax debt.

Successful petitioners may be eligible to receive one of four different types of relief, including:

  • Innocent spouse relief;
  • Separation of liability;
  • Equitable relief; and
  • Relief from liability for tax attributable to community property.

Each of these forms of relief require the petitioner to establish a series of facts. For instance, a taxpayer can only receive innocent spouse relief if:

  • He or she filed a joint tax return;
  • There is an understated tax on the return due to the error of the other spouse;
  • When the return was signed, he or she did not know that the understated tax existed; and
  • It would be unfair to hold him or her liable for the tax.

Further, a taxpayer can only receive separation of liability if he or she:

  • Is divorced;
  • Is legally separated; or
  • Has lived apart from the other spouse for at least one year prior to filing Form 8857.

To learn more about the other requirements for obtaining relief, you should consider contacting a tax attorney who can advise you.


It is not always appropriate for a taxpayer to request relief from liability. For example, those who entered into an offer in compromise with the IRS should not file Form 8857. Similarly, when a court previously considered whether to grant the taxpayer relief from liability and chose not to do so, the taxpayer will not be granted relief. This is even true when a court did not directly consider the issue of whether to grant the taxpayer relief from joint liability, but he or she could have asked for relief and did not.

Call Today to Discuss Your Case With a Dedicated Florida Tax Lawyer  

If you believe that you should not be held liable for your spouse’s tax debt, please contact Ronald Cutler, P.A. at 386-490-9949 to speak with an experienced Florida tax attorney who can evaluate your case. We are eager to assist you with your case.


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