Most married taxpayers choose to file taxes jointly due to certain benefits associated with this filing status. When a couple chooses to file a joint tax return, both taxpayers are jointly and severally liable for the tax and any additions to tax, interest, or penalties that arise from joint return, even if the couple later separates or divorces. Both joint and several liability means that each taxpayer is legally responsible for the total liability. Therefore, both spouses on a married filling jointly return are usually held liable for all the tax that is due. This is the case even if one spouse made all the income or claimed deductions or credits. This is also the case in the event that a divorce decree states that a former spouse will be responsible for any amounts due on previously filed joint returns. A situation may occur however, where a spouse gets the other spouse into a substantial amount of debt. Upon separation or divorce the innocent spouse discovers that they are in a financial crisis and wishes to alleviate some of the accumulated debt. In cases such as these, a spouse can be eligible for relief from being jointly and severally liable.
Types of Relief
There are three types of relief from the joint and severally liability of a joint return. These three types are as listed:
It’s important to note that an individual seeking innocent spouse relief or separation of liability relief must request their relief no later than two years after the date the IRS first attempted to collect tax from them. An individual wishing to apply for equitable relief, must request relief during the period of the time the IRS can collect the tax from them. In the event that a person is looking for a refund of tax that they paid, then they are required to request it within the statue period for seeking a refund. This is generally three years after the date the return is filed or two years following the payment of tax, whichever is later. Refunds are not available under separation of liability relief.
Requirements for Relief
To seek innocent spouse relief, separation of liability relief, or equitable relief, an individual should submit to the IRS a completed form 8857. Request for Innocent Spouse Relief, or a written statement containing information required on Form 8857 which is signed under penalties of perjury. The IRS is required to notify the spouse you filed jointly with and allow him or her to provide information for consideration. Finally, in order to qualify for innocent spouse relief, separation of liability relief, and equitable relief an individual must meet all of the qualifications.
- Innocent Spouse Relief
- Separation of Liability Relief
- Equitable Relief