In many families, one spouse takes primary responsibility for all the family finances, including the preparation of the joint income tax return. A joint income tax return may provide tax benefits to families that would not be available from filing two separate returns. However, in order to file a joint income tax return, both spouses are required to sign the return. The result of filing a joint tax return is that each spouse is joint and severally liable for any reported tax liability, along with any additional tax, interest, and penalties assessed on the return by the IRS. Even if the couple is later divorced, both spouses remain joint and severally liable for the total liability associated with the joint return. But is this fair to the spouse who did not handle any of the family finances? What if the spouse was also the victim of abuse or domestic violence and was prevented from accessing any of the family financial records?
Congress and the Department of Treasury have created Innocent Spouse Relief, which gives the innocent spouse the ability to request relief from the IRS for the joint liability associated with any additional tax, penalties, or interest assessed on the joint return. To qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief, the innocent spouse must meet all of the following conditions: