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Innocent Spouse Relief

There are different types of relief from the joint and several liability on a tax return:

  • Innocent Spouse Relief – this type of relief provides the innocent spouse from additional taxes owed if their spouse or former spouse failed to report the income and they were unaware of it (for example, if the former spouse had a separate bank account on a business).
  • Separation of Liability Relief – such relief provides for separate allocation of any additional tax that may have accumulated between you and a former spouse, if something was omitted or improperly reported on a tax return.  In such case, you would be responsible for the portion of tax allocated to you only.
  • Equitable Relief – this may apply when you don't qualify for innocent spouse relief. Equitable relief is when the amount of tax reported on your return is correct but it wasn't paid on time.

The following conditions should be met to qualify for innocent spouse relief:

  • A tax return was filed and there was an understatement that's attributable to your spouse which you were unaware of.
  • You have to prove that when you had signed the tax return you didn't know that there was an understatement of such tax.
  • and lastly that it would be unfair to hold you liable for the understatement which your spouse intentionally omitted.

There is also a concept called an Injured Spouse, which has to do with a refund (unlike a relief of a joint liability in an innocent spouse relief). An injured spouse is one whose share of refund would be applied against a separate past tax due owed by a spouse. An injured spouse therefore may be entitled to recoup their share of the refund.