Going through a divorce can be challenging emotionally and financially. When the process is finally over, you are probably relieved to be independent and completely in control of your own finances once again. So when you get a notice in the mail requesting tax money owed on a previous tax return that you and your spouse filed jointly when married, your heart is bound to sink. Luckily, this situation is pretty common, and there is a way for you to get out of paying the taxes that really should be your ex-spouse's responsibility. It's called innocent spouse tax relief.
Why are you being asked to pay taxes?
When you and your spouse file taxes jointly as a married couple, you are both liable for any and all taxes associated with that filing. If your spouse underreports their income or underpays taxes on their income, you can be held liable for that underpayment. This remains true after your divorce. It's also true regardless of who earned the various income reported on your tax return. Even if you personally had $0 of income and your spouse was the sole breadwinner, you are legally just as responsible for those taxes as they are, even after divorce.
How can innocent spouse tax relief help?
If you were unaware that your spouse underreported their income or failed to pay their taxes, then you should not be held liable for their mistake, especially now that the two of you are divorced! The IRS does understand this plight, so they allow people in your situation to file for innocent spouse relief. Basically, you will have to fill out a few forms to show that:
- The taxes owed were owed on your spouse's income, not your own.
- You did not know that your spouse underpaid their taxes at the time that you signed the joint return.
- You are now divorced.
The main form that you need to file is called a Form 8857. You may also need to submit some supporting documents. As you can probably see, filing all of the necessary forms can get complicated. You're best off hiring a tax professional to guide and help you through this process.
If your ex-spouse failed to pay taxes while you were married and filing taxes together, you should not be held accountable. Take a deep breath, and reach out to a tax company such as Inside Out Tax Resolution Services in your area to start filing for your innocent spouse relief.