Most married couples file joint income tax returns. There are often significant financial advantages to doing so. Moreover, it usually just makes sense and saves time. However, sometimes one person’s individual issues can negatively affect their spouse. When that happens, there are ways that spouses can seek relief from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
We’ve covered “innocent spouse relief” in the past on this blog. Someone can seek that if their spouse made mistakes or intentional misrepresentations on the couple’s tax returns without their knowledge. It can protect them from responsibility for part of any penalties owed as a result of their spouse’s errors or false reporting. It’s not uncommon for issues that lead someone to file for innocent spouse relief to be discovered as a couple is divorcing.
When are you considered an “injured spouse?”
There’s another type of relief offered by the IRS called “injured spouse relief.” A person can apply for this if any or all of their joint federal tax refund is going to be garnished because of an individual debt owed by their current or ex-spouse.
Since injured spousal relief only applies to individual debts, these are typically federal student loan debts or spousal or child support debts owed from a previous marriage or relationship. They could potentially be tax debts from a time when the spouse filed their taxes individually or with another person.
There are other requirements to file for injured spouse relief with the IRS. For example, you must have some reportable income. You must also either have had tax deductions taken during the year or paid estimated taxes.
Dealing with the IRS can be a difficult and highly frustrating experience. If you believe you’re owed injured spouse relief (or innocent spouse relief) and are having difficulty obtaining it, it may be wise to seek legal guidance.