Did you ever file a joint tax return with your spouse, only to later dig out that there were piles of errors, resulting in penalties and interest charges? Or maybe your spouse committed serious fraud or somehow failed to report income without you knowing? If yes, then you qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief.

But, what is Innocent Spouse Relief? 

Innocent Spouse Relief is simply a provision offered by the Internal Revenue Service, protecting taxpayers from being held responsible for certain tax liabilities of their spouse or former spouse. Innocent Spouse Relief is often granted in cases where one is largely unaware of any type of omissions, errors, or fraud committed by their spouse on a joint tax return.

In this blog, let’s dive into what Innocent Spouse Relief is, who can qualify for it, and how to apply. For the same, you need to apply for an Innocent Spouse Relief form IRS. Whether a tax liability has come your way due to the actions of your spouse, or you simply want to prepare for anything that might happen in the future, then this blog is for you. Just read ahead and find out how.

What is Innocent Spouse Relief?

Innocent Spouse Relief is a provision offered by the IRS, short for, Internal Revenue Service, which helps relieve a spouse from the very responsibility for the owed amount on a jointly filed tax return. This provision is largely applicable when the partner spouse has understated the tax or has otherwise failed to report income. In case you are married and you’ve filed a joint tax return where only your spouse owes the debt, then you can file an injured spouse claim in order to acquire a refund of the chunk. In case you are wondering how to file injured spouse relief, it’s incredibly vital to understand the requirements which are outlined by the Internal Revenue Service to help recover the share of a joint tax refund.

In case a couple filed their taxes jointly, both of them are fully responsible for the amount of tax owed on the return. Under certain situations, this relief is applicable to those who have been associated with the wrongful deed, whether intentional or not.

Innocent Spouse Relief is simply a method for a spouse to be absolved of any form of responsibility for the amount of tax owed for a joint filed tax return. This is typically available for spouses who filed their taxes jointly, while the program just proved otherwise, in terms of an understatement to report income, or any other form of wrongful action.

However, it is equally vital to note that Innocent Spouse Relief is not a direct and automatic right. This is because the IRS is going to deeply examine each case in order to be sure whether the relief you’re about to get is truly justified. If you strongly believe that you qualify for one, seek professional help almost immediately to have further guidance and knowledge on the topic. Tax professionals can also help you with the broad application processes. If you are still wondering how to file injured spouse form, then get form 8379.

What Qualifies for Innocent Spouse Relief?

Innocent Spouse Relief helps to provide relief to individuals who file joint tax returns with their now or former spouse, only to later discover themselves responsible for penalties, unpaid taxes, and additional interest due to the actions of their partners.

In cases like these, the IRS largely enables the innocent Spouse to be relieved, only if certain conditions are met. In order to qualify for innocent spouse relief, there are a couple of criteria that must be met.

The IRS, however, can deny your request as well, with the process taking as long as around six months.

  1. You should have filed taxes jointly.
  2. The error which has been made needs to be attributable to the other person.
  3. The circumstances in these cases must be demanding and compelling.
  4. It is important that you have proof of innocence.
  5. Typically, it is important to request in a sense spouse relief not more than 2 years after the IRS begins to try collecting taxes from you.

The IRS, here, looks closely at everything, from the nature of the error to your financial circumstance, your academic backdrop, alongside your participation in the activity which might have made the situation direr.

How do I file for innocent spouse relief with the IRS?

If you want to request Innocent Spouse Tax Relief form, then file the IRS form 8857. It will ask you about certain personal information, marriage details (divorce, if applicable), and your current scenario regarding tax liability. However, in case you want to discard the long form only if you submit a signed statement with the same details. The IRS, then, will determine the tax you’re going to be responsible for.

If you do qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

  1. The IRS will inform your now or former spouse about your requesting Innocent Spouse Relief.
  2. The IRS is going to gather tax, interest, and penalties from your now or former spouse.
  3. In case you have already paid part or all of the tax amount, the IRS is going to refund the tax payments which were made with your money alone.
  4. In case any portion of the tax, interest, or penalty does not qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief, then you both will become liable for that part of the bill.

Other than these, there is another term most taxpayers get a little confused about. It is Injured Spouse Relief. Wondering how to file injured spouse relief?

Read ahead to find out!

Types of Innocent Spouse Relief

Marriage is a partnership, just as finances are. But, in cases where the situation is inevitable, one partner in the marriage may find themselves in trouble with the IRS due to pending taxes or misreported income. Luckily, if the situation becomes too much, don’t worry, because there is a way out for the “innocent spouse.” There are quite a few types of Innocent Spouse Relief programs. So, what are the four types of Innocent Spouse Relief programs? The answer is right below!

  • Traditional Innocent Spouse Relief

This is a type of relief largely applicable to those who filed joint returns with their spouses and are now facing a tax liability. In order to qualify for the same, there are a couple of criteria to be met, including not being aware of the situation, nor having a viable reason to be aware of all omitted or misreported income.

  • Separation of Liability Relief

The IRS divides the bill between you and your former spouse, with each having to pay their own share. For qualifying, you will have to be separated, divorced, or widowed.

  • Equitable Relief

This can be one of the many options in case you did not file a joint return but are held responsible for the error made by your spouse since you reside in a community property state (including, California, Arizona, Louisiana, Idaho, Nevada, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, or New Mexico) wherein the income is considered shared.

  • Relief by Allocation of Items of Community Income and Community Property

It is applicable to those in community property states who have filed a joint return. In this case, the income or property of one spouse is erroneously allocated to their partner.

Difference Between Innocent Spouse Relief and Injured Spouse Relief

Innocent Spouse Relief and Injured Spouse Relief are very different from one another. While they sound closely related, they are, in reality, intended for different situations. Frankly, there is quite a huge difference between Injured Spouse vs Innocent Spouse.

Innocent Spouse Relief is made for those who filed a joint tax return with their spouse or former spouse who misreported or omitted items on the tax return, now resulting in additional taxes owed. Innocent spouse relief helps to offer relief from additional penalties or taxes which emerged due to incorrect or omitted items. Many confuse Innocent Spouse Relief with Injured Spouse Relief. However, what is a injured spouse form?

Injured Spouse Relief is for taxpayers who file a joint tax return with their current or former spouse, who now have past federal tax, child support, state tax and more. Injured Spouse Relief is for those not responsible for their spouse or former spouse’s past obligations. This is simply the basic layer of difference between Innocent vs Injured Spouse. If you are still wondering how to file injured spouse form, then get form 8379.


Innocent Spouse Relief form IRS is a lifesaver for those who face tax liabilities they had zero knowledge or involvement. The IRS identifies that several taxpayers are penalized unjustly for the very actions of their now or former spouse. This relief program is designed to offer a remedy for situations as dire as these.

There are three different forms of Innocent Spouse Relief programs, each having its own set of requirements and qualifications. It becomes very essential to review the options, and equally work with a professional in order to determine which option fits your circumstance. While it does provide relief to many taxpayers, it is still quite a lengthy and time-consuming procedure. However, are you still wondering how to file Injured Spouse Form or Innocent Spouse Relief? Get in touch with a tax professional who knows what is best for you!

Remember, in case you are now experiencing tax liabilities due to the actions of your spouse, you might as well have open options to you through Innocent Spouse Relief. Do not let any amount of unfair tax burden your financial future – because if you have the options in your hands, why not use them for a brighter tomorrow?

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Mr. Michael D. Sullivan

Michael D. Sullivan is the founder of MD Sullivan Tax Group. He had a distinguished career with the Internal Revenue Service for 10 years. As a veteran IRS Revenue Officer / Agent, he served as an Offer in Compromise Tax Specialist and Large Dollar Case Specialist.

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