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Are you an innocent spouse?

Many married couples file their tax returns as "married filing jointly" and think nothing of it. Generally, it makes sense, especially if they have itemized deductions.

There are some cases where it may become a liability and force a taxpayer to apply for innocent spouse relief. An article from Forbes points out one circumstance where a spouse in Atlanta may have wished they had filed separately.

Say you work for an employer and your taxes are subject to payroll deduction. Your spouse runs their own business, where they are responsible for ensuring taxes are paid. What happens if they fail to pay any taxes for the year?

Because "married filing jointly" makes both spouses liable for all of the taxes owed by both spouses, the spouse who pays their taxes by payroll deductions could be required by the IRS to also pick up the tab for the nonpaying spouse.

The IRS can offer "innocent spouse relief" to spouse who was not responsible for the failure to pay the taxes, but they have been reluctant to make it widely available. A recent IRS Notice has increased their willingness to grant this relief.

The IRS now will recognize abuse, both physical and emotional by the non-requesting spouse, and financial control by the non-requesting spouse. The Service's determination of granting relief as an innocent spouse is a dependent on the facts and circumstance of each case and no one factor controls the determination.

If you had requested this form of relief before this notice was released in January of 2012, you should refile the request, and if you meet the new requirements, there is a good chance you can obtain this relief.

Source:, "IRS Expands Availability of Innocent Spouse Relief," Stephen J. Dunn, Dec. 15, 2012

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