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So, You Married a Tax Cheat? Meet Innocent Spouse Relief

By Tanya Roth, Esq. | Last updated on
So, things didn't quite work out with Romeo, eh? And now you find out Romeo was a tax cheat, too! But joint returns also have joint liability and you might be liable to the IRS!!!
Relax. The Innocent Spouse Rules might be able to help you. So here's what you ask yourself:

Find out what the tax is based on

Look at all correspondence you have from the IRS. Is the liability for an error in income tax calculation?

Did you know about the specific item that the liability was based on?

Once you determine what it is, exactly, that triggered the tax liability, you need to ask yourself how much you really knew about this item or transaction. Were you involved?

Did you sign the income tax return on your own or were you coerced?

Did your spouse force you into signing the form? How so? Think about this point.

Were you sick, mentally incapable or abused? Will you suffer great hardship if the liability is imposed?

If all else fails, there exists a provision under 6015(f) that allows the IRS to relieve you from liability if it would be inequitable (basically, unfair) to hold you liable. There are several factors for reviewing such claims under what is known as Revenue Procedure 2003-61, but a full discussion would go beyond the scope of this post. Nevertheless, it is something to consider asking your attorney about, should it seem applicable. Don't use this post as a definitive answer- always talk to your attorney or tax advisor!! Tax laws are complex and the provisions of section 6015 are even more complex. But know this--things might not be as bad as they seem.

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