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Innocent Spouse

Filing a joint return with a spouse can sometimes lead to unforeseen consequences.  Under Section 6013(d)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code,  parties who file a joint return for any year are jointly and severally liable for all of the tax debts associated with that return.  This means that the IRS can seek to collect  all of that tax from either person on the return regardless of who was responsible for earning the income.  Simply by signing the return, you become liable for everything on the return including any errors, interest and penalties.

Obviously, this rule can lead to unfairness to the "innocent spouse".   Sometimes one spouse is involved in questionable business practices or illegal activities that results in a tax liability on the joint return.  Often times, a simple mistake during routine bookkeeping  or tax preparation can result in a large and unforeseen tax debt.   Regardless of the reason why, the IRS can and will seek the unpaid taxes from both spouses.  In many instances, the "innocent spouse" will suffer the brunt of collection activities because they are frequently the most likely to have assets or an employer from which to collect.

Because the inherent unfairness in collecting taxes from a spouse who was not involved in accruing the debt, Congress has enacted IRC Section 6015  which allows the innocent spouse to request that joint and several liability be severed.  When granted, each taxpayer is responsible only for the tax related to their own income.  There are numerous requirements that must be met to qualify as an innocent spouse, but relief under this code section is definitely worth exploring if you think you might be a candidate.    Contact us today to see if you might qualify for relief as an innocent spouse.

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