An innocent spouse seeks to be relieved from the liability of their spouse’s tax issues. Relief from Joint and Several Liability is Section 6015 of the Internal Revenue Code.
Married taxpayers who file a joint return are liable for taxes, interests, and penalties according to the return, as well as any other taxes the IRS imposes. As both parties are liable, there are some situations where one may claim relief from joint and several liability using IRC 6015.
If it’s determined that the taxpayer signed the return under duress, the return is not processed as a joint return. In this case, you are not held to joint and several liability, though you may need to file a separate return for the tax year. Joint and several liability even applies to taxpayers where one spouse earned all the income for the year, or for taxpayers who later get divorced.
To request relief, you must file Form 8857, along with a statement addressing the requirements for being granted relief. Relief may be requested if a tax controversy occurs, including any pre-assessments and collections as determined by the statute and Treasury requirements for relief. Innocent spouse is different from, and should not be confused with the rules for, an injured spouse. An injured spouse receives relief from over-payment using Form 8379.
Joint and Several Liability relief comes in three different forms:
- Innocent Spouse Relief – 6015(b)
- Separation of Liability – 6015(c).
- Equitable Relief – 6015 (f)
Even if you seek relief using 6015 (b) or (c), if it is denied, you may still receive relief under 6015 (f).
If you wish to seek relief for Innocent Spouse Relief, Separation of Liability, or Equitable Relief, you’ll need to complete Form 8857 and file it with your taxes. You should review the requirements of IRC 6015 prior to filing the Form. You only need to file a single Form 8857, even if you’re requesting relief for multiple tax years. You’ll have to attach a brief to the Form 8857 stating the reasons you feel you qualify for relief. Check the instructions on the form for relevant information needed to properly complete the form.
The IRS has to inform the other party – your spouse or former spouse – if you request innocent spouse relief or separation of liability in order to encourage participation in determining how much relief you are entitled to. The IRS will contact the spouse to inform them of the relief request. There are certain safeguards in place to protect victims of domestic abuse. In these situations, you can write on the top of Form 8857 “Potential Domestic Abuse Case” and find more information on the IRS website.