What Is Innocent Spouse Relief and How Can it Help?

A couple working on taxes

Innocent spouse relief is a tax provision that relieves a spouse of joint liability for tax, interest, and penalties due on a jointly filed tax return. This provision was introduced to protect taxpayers from being unfairly penalized due to the other spouse's actions. If you are facing tax issues and believe you qualify for innocent spouse relief, the following guide outlines your options.

Eligibility for Innocent Spouse Relief

Not everyone is eligible for innocent spouse relief. To qualify, you must:

  • Have filed a joint federal income tax return with an understatement of tax primarily attributable to your spouse's erroneous item(s) or an understatement of your own tax due to your spouse's wrongdoing.

  • Be able to prove that at the time you signed the return, you did not know and had no reason to know there was an understatement of tax.

  • Establish that the understatement of tax or failure to report income would be unfair to hold you liable for.

Options for Seeking Innocent Spouse Relief

Innocent spouse relief is not automatic; you must apply for it. There are three types of innocent spouse relief, each with different qualifications:

  • Traditional innocent spouse relief: You must meet the general eligibility requirements mentioned earlier to qualify. Additionally, you must apply for relief within two years of the IRS's first attempt to collect the tax.

  • Separation of liability relief: This form of relief applies when you are no longer married to or not living with the spouse with whom you filed the joint return. It allocates the understatement of tax liability between you and your former spouse.

  • Equitable relief: This relief is applicable if you do not qualify for traditional innocent spouse relief or separation of liability relief. To apply for this relief, you must demonstrate that, considering all the facts and circumstances, it is unfair to hold you liable for the understatement or underpayment of tax.

How to Apply for Innocent Spouse Relief

To seek innocent spouse relief, you must file Form 8857 ("Request for Innocent Spouse Relief") with the IRS. The form requires detailed information on your circumstances and your spouse's tax obligation. The IRS typically takes six months to a year to make a decision; however, it may take longer. If the IRS denies your request, you can appeal its decision in some circumstances.

Tax Relief Attorneys in Tampa, FL

Innocent spouse relief can be a complex and challenging process, and it is always advisable to seek legal guidance before proceeding with your application. Our attorneys can help you determine your eligibility for relief and the best approach to take.

If you are ready to start the application process for innocent spouse relief, get in touch with our team at Law Offices of Darrin T. Mish, P.A. to learn how we can help you! (813) 295-7648

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