While there are many benefits to checking “married filing jointly” on your tax return, there could also be serious consequences if your spouse incurs significant tax debt or has encountered legal issues. An experienced tax lawyer can help you navigate these complicated matters and potentially avoid penalization for your spouse’s mistakes or misconduct.
Read this article to learn more about innocent and injured spouse tax relief and how these programs could work in your favor if your spouse has gotten into hot water with Uncle Sam.
RELATED ARTICLE: For Better or For Worse: How Marriage Affects Your Tax Status
Who Qualifies as an Injured Spouse?
An injured spouse is someone who has all or part of their tax return applied to a current or former spouse’s tax debt or other federal debt, like unpaid student loans. In these circumstances, an injured spouse claim may help you recover your refund.
Injured Spouse Eligibility Criteria
There are three requirements for filing as an injured spouse:
- The debt must belong solely to your spouse; such as when your spouse incurred the debt before your marriage.
- Your joint return must show that you reported income and had taxes withheld from your pay.
- You must have made estimated tax payments or claimed a refundable tax credit.
How to File an Injured Spouse Claim
Filing a claim as an injured spouse can help you recover all or part of your tax return. You will need to fill out Form 8379 and follow the following instructions:
- If you are mailing Form 8379 with your joint return, send them both to your local IRS Service Center.
- If you already filed a paper joint return, send the form to the IRS Service Center that received your original tax return.
- If you already filed your original joint tax return electronically, send Form 8379 to your local IRS Service Center.
- If you’re filing the form with an amended tax return or a subsequent tax return, mail them to your local IRS service center.
What Is Innocent Spouse Relief?
An innocent spouse is someone who owes additional taxes because their current or former spouse did not report income, reported an incorrect income amount, or claimed deductions and credits to which they were not entitled.
Innocent spouses may seek relief from being held financially or legally liable for their spouse’s actions regarding a joint tax return.
Innocent Spouse Eligibility Criteria
To qualify as an innocent spouse, you must:
- Have filed a joint return.
- Prove that the incorrect tax reporting was solely attributable to your spouse and you did not know anything about it.
- Prove that it would be unfair to hold you liable.
Why Am I Liable for My Spouse’s Tax Issues?
When it comes to unpaid taxes, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) applies a theory of joint and several liability. Under this legal theory, multiple people can be held liable for a single act. For jointly filed taxes, this means that you may be responsible for unpaid taxes even if your spouse is the one who misrepresented your collective tax information.
How to File an Innocent Spouse Claim
When filing an innocent spouse claim, you will need to send Form 8857 to one of the IRS addresses listed on the form. Additionally, the IRS must receive your claim within two years from the time that they originally attempted to collect the taxes.
The Benefits of Joint Filing
We’ve covered some of the negative aspects of joint filing and the available options for receiving allocation and relief for your spouse’s actions. However, there are a multitude of benefits available to married couples that file their taxes jointly, including:
- Earned income tax credits
- American opportunity and lifetime learning education tax credits
- Adoption credits
- Child and dependent care tax credits
RELATED ARTICLE: Richer or Poorer: Should Spouses Jointly File Their Taxes?
If you are unsure about joint filing, contact a tax professional to discuss your options and help you determine whether filing jointly is the right option for your marriage.
Contact S.H. Block Tax Services
If the IRS claimed your tax return due to your spouse’s debts or is holding you liable for missing taxes, contact S.H. Block Tax Services today for more information on filing an injured or innocent spouse claim.
Just married? There are many reasons married couple file their taxes jointly, but there are situations when filing separately is the better option. S.H. Block Tax Services can help you determine how joint filing will affect both you and your spouse, and whether it’s the right option for you.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.