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Tax Relief: Innocent Spousal Relief

If you have signed any federal (IRS) joint return, you are jointly and individually responsible for any tax, interest and penalties that may surface from that filing. Typically, both spouses on a married filing jointly return are held responsible for all the tax due. This is true even if one spouse earned all the income, if one spouse claimed improper deductions and credits or even if a divorce decree states a former spouse is responsible. The IRS can collect amounts owed from either you and/or your spouse (or former spouse). 


Under certain circumstances, you may be able to seek relief of responsibility if your spouse (or former spouse) improperly reported or omitted items on your joint income tax form resulting in having to pay back taxes, interest and penalties.


You may be able to avoid the responsibility of paying those back taxes, interest and penalties by requesting innocent spousal relief.  There are however, specific requirements that must be met first in order to qualify.   


There are three different types of spousal relief. 1) Innocent Spouse Relief can provide relief from additional tax owed if your spouse or former spouse failed to report income, claimed erroneous deductions or credits, or improperly reported income, 2) Separation of Liability Relief. This relief provides the separate allocation of additional tax owed by you and your former spouse or current spouse that you are legally separated from or not living with in regards to an item(s) that wasn’t properly reported on your joint return. You will  then be responsible for the amount of tax allocated to you, 3) Equitable Relief. This relief may apply if you’re not eligible for Innocent Spousal Relief or Separation of Liability Relief when something isn’t reported properly on a joint return and typically attributed to your spouse or former spouse. You may also qualify for this relief if the joint return was reported correctly but the tax wasn’t paid.


When you file for any type of spousal relief, the IRS has to notify your spouse or former spouse you had filed jointly with that you are requesting the relief.  The spouse or former spouse is then allowed to submit information for consideration regarding your claim.  


Filing for spousal relief must be requested no later than 2 years after the date the IRS first attempted to collect the tax from you under innocent spousal relief or separation of liability relief.  Under equitable relief, you must request the relief during the period of time when the IRS can collect the tax from you. 


If you are seeking a refund of a tax you paid, you must request that amount within the statutory period which is generally a period of three years after the date of the return was filed, or two years following the payment of the tax - whichever one is later.


Our tax laws are very complicated and difficult to understand. Our tax law attorneys at Gantenbein Law Firm in Denver, Colorado hold Master’s Degrees in Taxation and have the expertise and experience to guide you through the ever-changing laws and requirements. We are committed to our clients finding the best solutions to their tax issues.


spousal relief tax lawyers in denver

The IRS requires married couples to file for taxes, and the individual is responsible both individually and jointly for correctly filed tax returns. 

However, there are limited circumstances in which an innocent spouse may find tax relief from tax, interest and penalties. 

To see if you qualify for innocent spouse relief, contact our tax lawyers at


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