When a couple files a federal tax return jointly and one spouse has a significantly higher separate tax liability than the other, the spouse with the lower tax liability or no tax liability may qualify for innocent spouse tax relief in some cases. Since not all cases are the same and IRS rules may change from year to year, it is important to discuss the matter with a knowledgeable attorney to determine individual qualification.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, a person filing jointly with a spouse who has an erroneous item resulting in a deficiency may qualify to file as an innocent spouse. A deficiency is an amount owed, and an erroneous item may encompass a vast array of items. For example, consider a couple who write off donations on their joint return. If the husband handles all donations, writes off more than what they receive without the wife’s knowledge and winds up getting caught years later, the wife may try to file for innocent spouse relief to protect herself from future tax liabilities because of the erroneous entries.
If credits or deductions are entered incorrectly, they may be considered erroneous items. Some items may not qualify for credits or deductions. Entering with or without knowledge of this may result in consequences. However, the IRS may not be very lenient when it comes to serious errors or recurring mistakes that would otherwise create a substantial deficiency. Innocent spouses must be able to establish that they did not know of the errors at the time the return was filed, and it must be deemed unfair based on the data the IRS collects to hold the party filing for innocent spouse relief liable.
Since not all tax situations are the same, there is no black-and-white answer for whether an individual will qualify for innocent spouse tax relief. If your spouse made serious errors or did not tell you about a tax liability and now you are in trouble, it is important to speak with a knowledgeable attorney who has experience working with innocent spouse tax relief cases.
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