Yes. If you’re married, you can either file your taxes separately or jointly. If you file joint returns with your spouse, you become jointly and severally liable for any tax deficiencies, interests, or penalties, even if the deficiencies are attributable to the income from one spouse. However, one spouse can request what’s known as “innocent spouse relief” from the Internal Revenue Service.
Innocent Spouse Relief is an exception in the tax code. If granted, it can relieve a spouse of responsibility for paying tax, interest, and penalties if your spouse (or former spouse) improperly reported items or omitted items on your tax return. In that regard, the tax, interest, and penalties can only be collected from your spouse.
In order to qualify for innocent spouse relief, you must meet all of the following criteria:
The IRS defines “erroneous items” as the following:
The IRS considers that you knew or had reason to know of an understatement tax if you actually knew of the understatement, or if a reasonable person in similar circumstances would have known the understatement.
For example, if your spouse tells you that he or she is underreporting your income before filing, then you have actual knowledge of the understatement.
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No. Innocent spouse relief only applies for married couples who jointly file their tax returns because it demonstrates that one spouse was innocent to the understatement tax and therefore should not be penalized.
If you file your taxes separately and understate your tax due, you alone will be held liable for any tax deficiencies, interests, or penalties.
Tax laws are complex and ever-changing. It's important to speak to an accountant or file your taxes if you realize that your spouse did not file. But, if you get a notification from the IRS about any back taxes and/or penalties, and you believe you qualify for innocent spouse relief, then contact a local tax attorney. It's important that you take steps to remedy the situation, as soon as possible, as a tax attorney cannot help you until you take the first steps.
Last Modified: 05-24-2018 12:50 AM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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