Comments for Back Taxes

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May 04, 2011
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Tax Debt of Ex Spouce
by: Stephanie

Per the IRS: Many married taxpayers choose to file a joint tax return because of certain benefits this filing status allows. Both taxpayers are jointly and liable for the tax and any additions to tax, interest, or penalties that arise as a result of the joint return even if they later divorce. Joint liability means that each taxpayer is legally responsible for the entire liability. Thus, both spouses are generally held responsible for all the tax due even if one spouse earned all the income or claimed improper deductions or credits. This is also true even if a divorce decree states that a former spouse will be responsible for any amounts due on previously filed joint returns. In some cases, however, a spouse can get relief from joint and several liability.

There are three types of relief from joint and several liability for spouses who filed joint returns:

1) Innocent Spouse Relief provides you relief from additional tax you owe if your spouse or former spouse failed to report income, reported income improperly or claimed improper deductions or credits.

2) Separation of Liability Relief provides for the allocation of additional tax owed between you and your spouse or former spouse because an item was not reported properly on a joint return. The tax allocated to you is the amount for which you are responsible.

3) Equitable Relief may apply when you do not qualify for innocent spouse relief or separation of liability relief for something not reported properly on a joint return and generally attributable to your spouse. You may also qualify for equitable relief if the correct amount of tax was reported on your joint return but the tax remains unpaid.

Form 8857 (PDF), Request for Innocent Spouse Relief, or a written statement containing the same information required on Form 8857, must be filed in order to request innocent spouse relief, separation of liability relief, or equitable relief.

You may also refer to Publication 971, Innocent Spouse Relief, for more information. To learn more about innocent spouse relief, you can also use the Innocent Spouse Tax Relief Eligibility Explorer at www.irs.gov. Click on "Individuals," "Tax Information for Innocent Spouses," and "Explore if you are an Eligible Innocent Spouse."

If you are an injured spouse, you may be entitled to recoup your share of the refund. For more information, obtain Form 8379 (PDF), Injured Spouse Allocation.


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