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What to Do If Your Spouse Leaves You With Tax Debt

What to Do If Your Spouse Leaves You With Tax Debt

The IRS can go after either or both spouses for tax debt from a joint return. This is true even if you have a divorce settlement stating that your former spouse will handle the tax debt.

If your former spouse won’t hold up their end of the bargain and resolve your tax problems, you may need to request one of the three types of innocent spouse relief.

Separation of Liability Relief

Separation of liability relief should be considered by anyone who is recently divorced and stuck with marital tax debt. The eligibility criteria are as follows:

  • You’re divorced, legally separated, widowed, or have lived in a separate household from your spouse for 12 consecutive months.
  • You didn’t have actual knowledge of the erroneous item that caused a deficiency on your return.

This type of innocent spouse relief splits up the tax items on the joint return on allocates them to the respective spouses. If your spouse was the one who was underreporting their income or overstating their deductions, this could wipe out your responsibility for the marital tax debt.

The downside of separation of liability relief is that it can’t be used for taxes that were properly reported on the return but not paid.

Equitable Relief

Equitable relief is the catch-all innocent spouse relief provision. It requires looking at many factors to determine whether it is fair to hold you responsible for the joint tax debt.

Most importantly, equitable relief can be used to get relief from unpaid—rather than underreported—tax debt. If your tax debt was properly reported, this is your only innocent spouse relief option, and you should discuss whether you may qualify with a tax relief attorney.

Traditional Innocent Spouse Relief

The other two options are more likely to benefit a taxpayer who is recently divorced or separated, but traditional innocent spouse relief is also worth considering. For this type of innocent spouse relief, you cannot have had actual knowledge of an erroneous item on the return or have had a reason to know the item was erroneous.

A tax attorney can explain how the innocent spouse rules may apply to your case and tell you about other tax resolution options you may also qualify for.

The Gartzman Law Firm can help you request innocent spouse and deal with other tax problems after a divorce. Use our contact form to request a consultation with an Atlanta tax resolution attorney.