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Understanding Innocent Spouse Relief

If you and your spouse are no longer together, and you receive a notice from the Internal Revenue Service that you owe taxes on a joint return, you may be wondering if you are responsible for paying it.

In most circumstances, you are liable for taxes owed on a joint tax return, even if your final divorce agreement stated otherwise. However, one potential option you have is Innocent Spouse Relief.

Financially responsible parties for joint tax returns

According to Benefits.gov, when a couple signs a joint tax return, they are jointly and individually responsible for any taxes due as well as interest or penalties that may be due. This is the case even if your former spouse earned all the income or your divorce decree states that your ex is responsible for the tax payments.

However, if you meet certain conditions, you may qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief, which would relieve you of all financial responsibility.

Qualifications for Innocent Spouse Relief

According to the IRS, you are only eligible for this relief if the taxes owed are the result of your ex reporting one or more erroneous items in regard to his or her income. One example is your former spouse intentionally or mistakenly reported less income than he or she actually earned.

Along with filing a joint tax return that included an understatement of tax, you must meet two additional qualifications. One is that you did not know at the time of signing that there was a misrepresentation of tax liability and that it would be unfair to hold you accountable for this error.