Who is Eligible for Innocent Spouse Relief?

Properly filing taxes can be a challenge even for seasoned financial professionals. This is especially true for business owners, those who have unusual deductions, or anyone filing joint tax returns. It is surprisingly easy for someone to do something incorrect—either accidentally or intentionally—to avoid paying taxes. In these circumstances, it is necessary to go back and pay the correct amount once the IRS discovers the error.

If your spouse or ex-spouse made a mistake on any past joint return, the IRS will come after both of you for the balance. If you can show that the issue was not your fault, however, you may qualify for innocent spouse relief.

What is Innocent Spouse Relief?

This is a procedure wherein the spouse who was not responsible for the errors in taxes will notify the IRS of this fact so that they will not have to pay. It is quite common for an innocent spouse to seek this relief if they have been divorced since they will not want to pay the tax liabilities incurred by an ex-spouse. 

Innocent spouse relief can also be useful during the marriage. By seeking this relief, the couple can ensure that at least one of them will not experience wage garnishments or other issues due to the past tax errors, which can help them financially while the issue is being resolved.

How to Qualify For Innocent Spouse Relief

By default, when filing a joint tax return, both parties are going to be responsible for any errors or past due balances. If you wish to seek innocent spouse relief, you will need to successfully petition the IRS—which does not automatically happen. To be considered, the couple must have filed as married filing jointly for the scrutinized tax year.

If you did file jointly, you still need to be able to show that the error occurred because of the other party. For example, if the IRS claimed there was unreported income on your tax return, that income would have to be earned by your spouse if you are seeking relief. You will also need to be able to show that you were innocent in the matter and that you did not know about the missing income. Additionally, you must show that there was no reasonable expectation that you should have known about it.

Finally, you will need to list all relevant circumstances for the IRS to consider innocent spouse relief, as the agency will analyze all details related to a request for relief. This includes things like whether you benefited from the error, whether your spouse had abandoned you, and any other pertinent details.

Getting it Done Right

While dealing with the IRS, you want to make sure everything is properly handled. The last thing you want to happen is that you file for innocent spouse relief only to have the IRS delay the process while you must produce additional information, or worse, deny your request altogether. 

With this in mind, it is often a good idea to have an experienced tax attorney working on your behalf when seeking this type of relief. If you would like to learn more, please contact Weisberg Kainen Mark today to discuss your situation.

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