Innocent Spouse Tax Relief is a way to get rid of IRS tax debt obligations from a previous marriage. Many married taxpayers choose to file joint tax returns because of certain benefits this filing status allows. Both spouse taxpayers are jointly and independently responsible for the tax and interest or penalty due to the joint filing and can even be liable if they later divorce. One spouse may be held responsible for all tax due even if the income was owed by the other spouse.
An "innocent spouse" is a person who was not involved in the filing of any joint income taxes during her marriage. Upon divorce, the innocent spouse is responsible for the tax liability that occurred due to her former spouse’s misfiling of their taxes.
In some cases, a spouse will be relieved and does not have to pay the tax, interest or penalties on a joint tax return after divorce. Three types of relief are available after divorce for a ex-spouse:
If you believe that the IRS and/or your former spouse treated you unfairly by making you pay back all of the income tax debt from your marriage, then you may qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief. To do so, you must declare and prove to the IRS that you were an Innocent Spouse throughout your marriage.
The IRS considers a number of factors:
Innocent Spouse Relief must be filed within two years from when you were first notified of the tax liability. Notifications usually come in the form of a letter from the IRS stating how much you owe them and/ or the IRS taking your current year’s income tax return to apply to your debt.
However, if 2 years have gone by and you believe you never received the IRS notification, you may argue an exception to the 2 years filing deadline. For example, the IRS mailed all of the notifications to an old mailing address instead of your current mailing address.
If the IRS has taken your own individual income tax return to cover the tax debt from your previous marriage, then you may appeal to the IRS and get the money back. Generally, the IRS will return the latest tax year’s levy. However, returning any extra years may be possible.
Example: Jane and John were married from 2005 to 2010, where John lied on their taxes. They got a divorce in 2010, and Jane filed her individual income taxes. However, she was notified of a tax debt in 2011 when the IRS took her 2010 income tax return to pay off her tax debt from when she was married. Because Jane did not know of any tax debt, Jane has until 2013 (2 years from notice) to be declared an innocent spouse and get her 2010 income tax return back.
Declaring yourself as an Innocent Spouse requires a lot of paperwork and evidence. A tax lawyer may work with you to file all your necessary evidence and declarations. Thus, you will be cleared of your debt and will get back any levy made.
Last Modified: 04-26-2016 01:55 PM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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