Robert J. Fedor, Esq., L.L.C.

Seeking relief from the IRS for a spouse’s tax mistakes

For couples who file taxes jointly, it isn’t enough to let a spouse take care of the taxes and sign on the dotted line when he or she is done. One very important reason for this: you can be held responsible for errors your spouse commits on a tax return. This can lead to fines and possibly other penalties, so it isn’t just a matter of getting a slap on the wrist and a reminder to pay better attention next time.

The IRS does recognize that there are some cases where a taxpayer is not actually responsible for tax errors committed by a spouse, at least to an extent, and there are several types of relief available for such spouses. Innocent spouse relief, for one, may be available to a taxpayer whose the spouse filed an incorrect tax return. For those who qualify, there is the possibility of relief from tax, interest and penalties. 

Another form of spousal relief is separation of liability, which allows a spouse to divide an understatement of tax—in addition to any interest and penalties—on a joint return between the taxpayer and his or her spouse. This form of relief allows the taxpayer to avoid liability for a spouse’s under-reporting of income.

In cases where neither innocent spouse relief or separation by liability is available, it may still be possible for a taxpayer to qualify for equitable relief. One of the unique features of this form of relief is that a taxpayer who qualifies for it can be relieved from an understatement or an underpayment of tax.

Each of these forms of relief has specific requirements associated with it, and it is important for a taxpayer seeking such relief to make a thorough case. Having the assistance of an experienced tax law attorney can be a great help.

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