Because married taxpayers may elect to file joint returns with their spouses under IRC § 6013(a), they become joint and severally liable with respect to the income tax liability.  This means that each spouse, husband or wife, is individually responsible for the accuracy of the entire tax return and the payment of the tax.  Because some issues may arise to which one spouse was previously unaware, the innocent spouse provisions provide an opportunity from relief.

History and Background of Innocent Spouse Relief

In prior versions of the of the Internal Revenue Code, a spouse claiming innocent spouse relief had to show that (1) there was an understatement on the return attributable to the other spouse that was “grossly erroneous,” (2) the spouse seeking relief did not know, or have reason to know of the understatement, and (3) it would be inequitable to hold her liable.  There were also certain dollar limitations and innocent spouse relief was generally an “all or nothing.”  With the passing of the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, innocent spouse relief and IRC § 6015 was greatly enhanced.

Today, IRC § 6015 provides that:

Types of Innocent Spouse Relief

A misconception of innocent spouse relief is that it is only one issue; however, innocent spouse relief encompasses 3 types of relief: (1) innocent spouse relief, (2) separation of liability, and (3) equitable relief.

6015(b) - Innocent Spouse Relief6015(c) - Separation of Liability6015(f) - Equitable Relief

How do I Apply for Innocent Spouse Relief?

It is important for requesting spouses to understand the requesting innocent spouse relief is an “election,” and must be done timely and through the correct procedures.  To file an election for innocent spouse relief, taxpayers generally file Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief (or a similar statement containing the same information signed under penalties of perjury).  Generally speaking, taxpayers seeking innocent spouse relief under IRC § 6015(b) and IRC § 6015(c) must file a request no later than 2 years from the first collection activity occurring after July 22, 1998, against the requesting spouse.  For innocent spouse claims filed under IRC § 6015(f), the claim is generally timely as long as the refund statute or collection statute is open.

Why McLaughlin Legal?

The tax attorneys at McLaughlin Legal are qualified and experienced in all types of tax law matters, including those of innocent spouse claims.  Our firm is not all things to all clients, but with McLaughlin Legal‘s specialization, personalized services, and commitment to protecting your rights, we can offer the same level of service as any other law firm.  Whether defending your rights during an IRS audit, before the U.S. Tax Court, or claiming and defending an innocent spouse claim, you can be confident in our concentrated are of the law.  Together we can work together to resolve your tax dispute.

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If you are interested in learning more about innocent spouse relief, please feel free to contact us today for a free consultation.