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Personal Tax -> Innocent Spouse Relief

Innocent Spouse Relief

Innocent spouse relief is only available to someone who files a joint return.  However, spouses who did not file joint returns, but who live in community property states, may also qualify for relief.  See Publication 971 Innocent Spouse Relief (pdf) for more information on this.

When a joint income tax return is filed, both spouses are legally responsible for the entire tax liability.  This liability also applies to any additional tax liability that the IRS determines to be due by either spouse.  A subsequent divorce does not remove this liability, even if the divorce decree states that your former spouse will be solely responsible for the tax.

The objective of innocent spouse relief is to help a taxpayer who was not aware that his or her spouse understated or underpaid an income tax liability.

Previously, there was a 2 year time limit for innocent spouse relief requests.  On July 25, 2011, the IRS announced that it has eliminated this time limit.  A taxpayer whose relief request was previously denied solely due to the time limit may reapply using IRS Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief (see link below), as long as the collection statute of limitations for the tax years involved has not expired.

Internal Revenue Service Resources:

Topic 205 - Innocent Spouse Relief (Including Separation of Liability and Equitable Relief)

Revised: July 10, 2020

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