FAQs for IRS Innocent Spouse Relief

Here are some frequently asked questions regarding IRS Innocent Spouse Relief. Feel Free to send us a question that you don’t see answered here.

IRS Innocent Spouse Relief Frequently Asked QuestionsHow does the IRS define actual knowledge?

You may hear this phrase when applying for innocent spouse relief. If you actually knew about the error made by your spouse, you have “actual knowledge”. You don’t qualify for innocent spouse relief. Both you and your spouse are still liable.

What is the deadline or time limit for filing for Innocent Spouse Relief?

In most cases, you must file for innocent spouse relief no later than two years after the day the IRS first tried to collect the tax from you. However, there are exceptions.

If you are applying for equitable relief related to taxes owed, you have up to 10 years from the date the tax liability was assessed. If you are applying for a credit or refund under the equitable relief program, you have until the later of three years after the date of assessment or two years after the payment was made.

How can I find tax professionals that specialize in innocent spouse?

Here at TaxCure, we have a network of tax professionals who give details on the type of work that they specialize in. We then have an algorithm that ranks those pros based on those specialties to help taxpayers find the best pros for their unique situation. You can follow this link here to see the top-rated innocent spouse relief experts, or you can start your search below and applying the applicable filters to your search.


How does the IRS define “reason to know”?

This is another common phrase when applying for innocent spouse relief. “Reason to know” refers to cases where the IRS believes it’s reasonable that you knew about the issue. For example, if you knew about related facts or information, the IRS may assume that you also had reason to know about this issue. If you had reason to know, you cannot qualify for innocent spouse relief.

What does the IRS mean by members of the same household?

To qualify for some type of relief, you must not be a member of the same household as your spouse/ex-spouse. You and your spouse are not members of the same household if you are living apart. However, if you are still romantically involved or if your spouse is likely to move back, the IRS considers that you are still members of the same household.

What are erroneous items?

Erroneous items can be unreported income or incorrect deductions and/or credits, or incorrect cost basis for capital gains or losses.

Will the IRS contact my former spouse?

If you file for innocent spouse relief, the IRS will contact your former spouse and give him or her the option to participate in the process. There are no exceptions to this rule, even if you were a victim of abuse.

What forms do I need to file for innocent spouse relief?

In order to file for innocent spouse relief, you have to submit IRS Form 8857. If you were a victim of spousal abuse, you must also submit a letter explaining that. You may also want to submit a letter with extra details in other cases as well. A letter helps you explain why you meet the requirements for relief.

What is an understatement of tax?

An understatement of tax occurs when your return says you owe less tax than you really owe. This is one of the reasons you can apply for spouse relief.

What is an underpayment of tax?

This occurs when the total tax amount on the tax return is correct but the taxpayer fails to remit full payment.

When am I liable for my spouse's tax liabilities?

When it comes to taxes, married couples can file their return jointly or separately. If you and your spouse decide to file jointly, you will both be liable for any tax liability incurred. This means that if your spouse owes back taxes, the IRS can come after you for the money. However, if you file your taxes separately, you will not be held responsible for your spouse's taxes owed.  Ultimately, it is up to you and your spouse to decide which filing status is best for your situation. If you own joint assets and you aren't personally responsible for your spouse's tax liability, your joint assets can still be at risk of levy from the IRS.

If I qualified for an offer in compromise, can I still qualify for innocent spouse relief?

No, you cannot qualify for innocent spouse relief if you already qualified and settled your taxes with an offer in compromise.

How many years can my innocent spouse relief filing cover?

Your innocent spouse's relief filing will cover three years. If you want to cover more than three years you will have to file a separate IRS Form 8857 for the additional years.

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Select Tax Agency/Agencies
e.g. 10011 or New York, New York