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· When you filed your joint return, did you think everything was properly included on it?
· If you knew about something not being included (any erroneous item), did you not sign the return because you were in a domestically abusive household?
· Has the IRS audited your joint return and assessed additional penalties, taxes, or interest?
· Was this the result of unreported income, understatement of tax, or incorrect deductions/credits?
· Has the IRS attempted to take your tax refund from you?
· Has the IRS attempted to levy your bank account?
· Has the IRS attempted to garnish your wages?
· Has it been less than two years since the IRS first attempted to collect the tax balance due from you?
If you can answer “yes” to all of the above questions, you probably qualify for innocent spouse relief.
To qualify for innocent spouse relief, you must meet all of the following conditions (also known as IRS innocent spouse rules):
The “reason to know” determination is important to the IRS in innocent spouse relief requests since the IRS will try to defeat your claim based on this.
If you were denied an innocent spouse relief election, you can appeal the decision. You must file for a petition with the Tax Court within 90 days after receiving the denial.
Even though you are requesting a review on your innocent spouse relief election, your spouse (“non-electing” - the one not applying for the innocent spouse relief) can intervene during the process.
The IRS is required by law to notify the non-electing spouse about your innocent spouse relief request. This is intended to allow the non-electing spouse with an opportunity to become involved in the determination.
In order to request any innocent spouse relief, you must prepare and file IRS Form 8857 (Request for Innocent Spouse Relief). In addition to filing this IRS form, you must also include a statement explaining why you qualify.
IRS Publication 971 (Innocent Spouse Relief) contains information which can help you.
If you do not make the election for innocent spouse relief within two years from the date the IRS first began collection activities against your joint return, you will forfeit any chance to receive it. Be certain, therefore, that you fill out and mail Form 8857 as soon as possible.
You can obtain IRS Form 8857 via the IRS website (by printing or downloading), ordering online; by phone, or by mail.
Innocent spouse relief is available for understatement of income on a jointly filed tax return. However, it is not available in cases where a joint return was filed with a correct tax liability and the taxes were unpaid.
In other words, if you and your spouse filed a joint return and all the information was correct – you cannot request innocent spouse relief if no taxes were enclosed with your joint tax return. This is known as failure to pay taxes. You two will be penalized.
The IRS provides a centralized unit for mailing your Form 8857 (Request for Innocent Spouse Relief). The mailing address you are to directly send your completed form (along with explanation statement) to is:
IRS - IRS-Stop 840-F
PO Box 120053
Covington, KY 41012
Be certain you send your request for innocent spouse relief form to this address, and not your usual IRS tax return address. By sending your request to any other address, of course, the processing time will lengthen.