Married couples who file a joint tax return should be aware that both parties are liable for each other’s tax responsibilities, meaning if there is a balance owed, it doesn’t matter which spouse’s income the tax is owed on – both will be held equally accountable. There are some situations where one spouse may be excused from their partner’s tax liability, as the IRS offers relief for these spouses.
An example of one of these situations: A spouse, or ex-spouse reports the incorrect amount of income on a previous joint tax return or underpaid the bill, unbeknownst to the other spouse. The spouse can apply for Innocent Spouse Relief instead of being held liable for the outstanding taxes.
Those who qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief are not responsible for the tax debt of their spouse or ex-spouse.
The following statements must ALL be true in order to qualify as an Innocent Spouse:
You filed a joint tax return with your spouse
Your spouse incorrectly reported income on the return
You signed the return, unaware that the information was incorrect and had no reason to suspect otherwise
Under these circumstances, it would be unfair to hold the innocent spouse accountable.