Under Internal Revenue Code 6013, married individuals who jointly file income tax returns are jointly and severally liable for the tax that is due for the taxable year in which the joint return was filed. This means the IRS can go after both individuals who signed the tax return.
As you may be aware, this rule can cause unfair results. For example, guess what happens when a married couple files a joint return, later gets divorced, and one of the spouses didn’t report all of his/her income? Yep – the IRS goes after both spouses, even if the other spouse knew nothing about the unreported income. That spouse could be facing back taxes, penalties and interest. In fact, now he/she could be facing wage garnishment or even stiffer penalties.
Fortunately, Congress recognized it can be inequitable to impose joint and several liabilities on a spouse who lacks knowledge of the entries on the joint return, and so added specific provisions providing relief to the Tax Code. This concept is where the terms “Innocent Spouse” and “Injured Spouse” come from.
If one of the spouses who sign the joint tax return does not believe he/she should be liable for the full amount of the taxes, that spouse may seek relief from liability under the innocent spouse rules. To prevail for basic relief under IRC 6015(b), you have to show that at the time you signed the joint tax return you did not know and had no reason to know there was an understatement of tax, and that, looking at the whole picture, it would be unfair to hold you liable for the tax. At Huntsman | Lofgran, PLLC, we help clients obtain relief under the innocent spouse provisions. Call or contact us for help, today.
As an alternative, you may be able to obtain “separate liability” relief under IRC 6015(c), which is available to spouses who become divorced or legally separated after filing a joint return. Essentially, you have the right to terminate your joint filing status and separate yourself from your spouse’s unpaid tax debt, and do not need consent to make the election. You will need to have lived apart from your spouse during the 12 months prior to filing for relife, and you have to distinguish your spouse’s liability from your own. If this sounds like something that might help your situation, call or contact us for help, today for a free and thorough consultation on your situation.
Finally, when relief is not available under the basic relief innocent spouse or separate liability procedures, you may be able to qualify for equitable relief under IRC 6015(f) if, taking into account the facts and circumstances, the IRS finds it would be inequitable to hold a requesting spouse liable for any unpaid tax or deficiency.
As local tax attorneys here in Utah, we fully develop the facts surrounding an innocent spouse relief claim, and apply those facts to the most relevant and up-to-date case law. This can greatly improve your chances at qualifying for innocent spouse, separation of liability relief, or equitable relief.
One thing is for certain: the IRS will come after you because you jointly filed that return. You need to persuade them otherwise. We can help.
As local, Salt Lake City Tax Attorneys concentrating in IRS Problem Resolution, we can help you decide if Innocent Spouse Relief is the right solution to your IRS tax problems. Please call the Law Offices of Huntsman | Lofgran, PLLC at 801-474-0031 or contact us today for your free no-obligation tax consultation with Salt Lake Tax Attorney Michael Lofgran.