TAX SOLUTIONSInnocent Spouse Relief

When you and your spouse file joint tax returns, you both are responsible for the subsequent taxes owed. However, you may not have to pay if your spouse made significant errors on the return, such as inaccurately reporting income, not reporting income, or falsely claiming deductions or credits.

What is Innocent Spouse Relief?

Innocent spouse relief is an IRS policy that relieves you of your legal responsibility to pay tax, interest, or penalties if your spouse or former spouse did not properly report or purposefully omitted items on your joint tax return. 

This relief program only applies to individual income or self-employment tax. Business taxes, Individual Shared Responsibility payments, Household Employment taxes, and trust fund recovery penalties for employment taxes are not considered eligible for innocent spouse relief.

How to Qualify

It is difficult to get approved for innocent spouse relief, and the application can be arduous. The IRS will examine each case individually and at length, meaning the process typically takes upward of six months.

If you want to qualify for innocent spouse relief:

  • You and your spouse must file taxes jointly 
  • The error must be fully attributed to the other person
  • You must prove your innocence according to IRS standards
  • The circumstances holding you liable for the unpaid taxes must be compelling

All of the qualification details can be found in IRS Publication 971.

While there are some exceptions, you generally have to request innocent spouse relief no later than two years after the IRS started inquiring about the outstanding tax debt. You will need to show that you did not know and had no reason to know that your spouse made an error or did not properly report income. 

Fairness will also be considered when determining whether to grant innocent spouse relief. The IRS will look at all aspects of the situation, including: 

  • The nature of the error
  • Your financial situation
  • Your educational background
  • Marital status
  • Whether the issue is part of a larger pattern

These cases can be very difficult to prove. It’s best to work with a professional tax professional who has the experience necessary to build your case and negotiate with the IRS.

Get Help

Schedule a free consultation with one of our tax associates and find out how we can help you leave your debt behind.