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What is innocent spouse relief?

Filing a joint tax return as a married couple can offer you certain benefits. However, if you and your spouse decide to divorce, you may bear responsibility for paying any outstanding taxes or penalties.

According to Benefits.gov, you may be eligible for innocent spouse relief from the IRS, which removes this responsibility from you.

Why might you need innocent spouse relief?

If you and your ex-spouse filed taxes jointly during your marriage, the IRS could hold you responsible for tax due and penalties even if your ex was the one who earned the money. You may have a divorce decree that states that your ex is responsible for paying, but the divorce decree alone is not enough to override the decisions of the IRS.

However, you can apply to the IRS for innocent spouse relief. If the IRS decides to grant it, you are no longer responsible for paying tax due, penalties or interest.

How do you qualify for innocent spouse relief?

The IRS may grant you innocent spouse relief if you are a victim of domestic violence, human trafficking or torture. You may also qualify if you were the victim of a drunk driving accident or a presidentially declared disaster.

If you need assistance in other areas, you could also qualify for innocent spouse relief. For example, if you have a disability that requires assistive equipment or are in need of mental health services.

What if the IRS denies your application for innocent spouse relief?

According to the IRS Taxpayer Advocate, if you believe that you are eligible for innocent spouse relief but the IRS denies your request, you can seek judicial review in tax court.