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Navigating IRS Innocent Spouse Relief: Understanding Your Options

By
Education & Training with Tax Rep LLC

The focus of my practice is civil and criminal tax representation, including helping taxpayers seek innocent spouse relief from the IRS.

Navigating the complexities of tax law can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to joint tax returns and the potential liabilities they entail. Married taxpayers who file jointly with their spouses often find themselves in situations where they are unfairly held responsible for tax liabilities that they believe should not be their burden to bear. However, relief may be available through the IRS Innocent Spouse Relief provisions outlined in Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 6015.

When considering Innocent Spouse Relief, the first crucial step is determining whether a joint tax return was filed. This seemingly simple question can sometimes lead to complexities, particularly in cases where one spouse may have signed the other's name without their knowledge or consent.

Once it is established that a joint return was filed, the next step is to identify whether the tax liability stems from erroneous items or underpayment. Erroneous items refer to inaccuracies in the original tax return, such as missing income or unsupported expenses. On the other hand, underpayment occurs when the correct tax liability was reported, but the taxes were either not paid or were underpaid.

For cases involving erroneous items, three forms of relief are available under IRC Section 6015: Innocent Spouse Relief (6015(b)), Separation of Liability (6015(c)), and Equitable Relief (6015(f)). Innocent Spouse Relief applies when the tax liability is attributable to the non-requesting spouse's erroneous items, and the requesting spouse was unaware of these inaccuracies. Separation of Liability allows spouses to be treated as if they had filed separately, allocating tax responsibility based on individual income items. Equitable Relief provides relief when it would be unfair to hold one spouse liable for the tax debt, considering various factors such as economic hardship and lack of knowledge or reason to know about the tax issues.

In cases of underpayment, Equitable Relief under IRC Section 6015(f) is the only available option. This provision allows relief for tax liabilities correctly reported on the return but not paid, provided that it would be inequitable to hold the requesting spouse responsible.

To pursue Innocent Spouse Relief, taxpayers must file Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief, with the IRS. This form includes a financial information statement that practitioners can use to highlight the requesting spouse's inability to pay and demonstrate the unfairness of holding them accountable for the tax debt.

Successful Innocent Spouse Relief claims often hinge on thorough documentation and evidence supporting the requesting spouse's case. This may include affidavits, medical records, evidence of financial abuse or control, and proof of limited access to financial records. By presenting a compelling case backed by comprehensive documentation, taxpayers increase their chances of obtaining relief from unjust tax liabilities.

If you or someone you know has an IRS tax issue and is seeking innocent spouse relief, feel free to contact me at egreen@gs-lawfirm.com or by calling (203) 285-8545.

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