Innocent Spouse Tax Relief

What is spouse relief for innocent parties and how do I qualify for it?


What happens if joint filing taxpayers separated or divorced? Nothing, the IRS still wants the money from both parties after a split or divorce.

Even a divorce and a court order for one spouse to pay the IRS’s outstanding tax debt will not keep the IRS from pursuing both taxpayers for these debts. If the taxpayers do not pay their debts or make arrangements to do so, the IRS may pursue both parties for collection. Wage garnishments, tax liens, and possible passport restrictions may be issued in addition to being pursued collection.

You would ask the IRS to exempt you from all or part of the tax debt that originated with a joint return if you were seeking innocent spouse relief. These collection activities might be halted if you were to get innocent spouse relief. You would use IRS Form 8857 to do that.

The IRS takes a joint-filing election and joint liabilities seriously. In fact, in 2021, the IRS received 26,179 innocent spouse applications. Only 4,807 of these were accepted. The moral of the story is that many apply, but few are accepted.

The rules are very complex.

There are three types of innocent spouse relief.

A joint federal tax debt includes not only taxes but also penalties and interest. Normally, both taxpayers are responsible for paying the debt, but in some cases, one taxpayer can be exonerated from part or all of the debt.

The three types of Innocent Spouse Relief are:
  • Innocent Spouse Relief:You may be relieved of responsibility for paying tax, interest, and penalties if your spouse’s return contained an error and you did not know or had no reason to know about the error.Under the applicable facts and circumstances, it would be inequitable to hold the requesting spouse liable for the joint tax liability
  • Equitable relief:
    To qualify for equitable relief, you must establish that under all the facts and circumstances, it would be unfair to hold you liable for the deficiency or underpayment of tax.
  • Separation of Liability ReliefTo qualify for separation of liability relief, you must have filed a joint return and must meet one of the following requirements at the time you request relief:
    • You’re divorced or legally separated from the spouse with whom you filed the joint return
    • You’re widowed, or
    • You haven’t been a member of the same household as the spouse with whom you filed the joint return at any time during the 12-month period ending on the date you request relief

    You must also not have had actual knowledge of the item that gave rise to the deficiency at the time you signed the joint return unless you can show that you signed the return under duress.

How to File Relief?

  • Application:
    You must submit Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief, along with supporting documents if you want to request innocent spouse relief. This form requires a lot of explanation and evidence to back up the facts stated in it.
  • Investigation:
    The IRS will look at the facts and circumstances of your case when you send in an application for innocent spouse relief and may ask for more information. In addition, the non-requesting spouse will be notified and given the opportunity to be involved in the decision. Non-requesting spouses can provide information to the IRS. An innocent spouse application can also be appealed.

To be eligible for innocent spouse relief, you must meet all of the following conditions:

Your joint return contains an error (deficiency) that is solely attributable to your spouse’s misreporting of income. This can include income that was omitted from the joint return. Deductions, credits, and property bases, if reported incorrectly on the joint return, are also erroneous items.

  • You must establish that at the time you signed the joint return, you had no reason to know, and no manner of knowing, that there was an understatement of tax.
  • It would be unjust to hold you liable for the understatement of tax based on all the facts and circumstances.

To obtain “liability protection” you must file a joint return and one of the following conditions must exist at the time you apply:

  • You are widowed,
  • Divorced or legally separated from the spouse with whom the joint return was filed, or
  • You were not living together at any time during the 12-month period ending on the date you file Form 8857 requesting innocent spouse relief (PDF), during which you were a member of the same household with your spouse and did not file a joint return with her.

You may qualify for “equitable relief” if you demonstrate that under all the circumstances it would be unfair to hold you liable for the understatement or underpayment of tax. In such a case, you would not be eligible for “separation of liability” relief.

Why contact Halls IRS to apply for Innocent Spouse Tax Relief:

Our Team is:

  • A team of Former IRS Agents, Tax Attorneys, CPAs, and EAs, have worked in the local, district, and regional offices of the IRS.
  • Are true IRS tax experts for Innocent Spouse Tax Relief.
  • Have over 200 years of cumulative IRS tax experience and over 60 years of working experience with the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Are one of the oldest, most trusted, and most experienced tax firms in the tax resolution industry.
  • Know the exact process of how to qualify for innocent spouse tax relief that can save you time and money.