How to Request Innocent Spouse Relief: Filing IRS Form 8857 & Letters
If you want to get innocent spouse relief, it’s extremely important to file the forms correctly the first time. If your request is denied, you may face issues applying for this type of relief again for the specific years you requested it. To help you out, this guide explains how to apply for innocent spouse relief, and it looks at the forms you need to use. It is a good idea to file as soon as you become aware of the tax debt that you feel your spouse owes. Before you file, make sure you meet the requirements of one of the types of spouse relief.
- Innocent Spouse Relief Requirements
- Relief by Separation of Liability Requirements
- Equitable Relief Requirements
The filing process is generally the same for all three of these categories. The only difference is how you answer the questions and the information you provide about your situation.
Do You Qualify to Get Innocent Spouse Relief?
The first two questions on the innocent spouse form help you determine if you qualify to apply.
The first question asks if you filed a joint tax return and believe that your spouse or former spouse is solely responsible for understatement or underpayment of the tax, interest, and penalties associated with that return. It also asks if you filed a married-filing-separately return in a community property state and believe that you should not be responsible for your spouse or former spouse's taxes. If either of these situations applies, you should answer yes.
Otherwise, you need to look at the second question on the innocent spouse relief form. It asks if the IRS took your tax refund to cover a debt that was exclusively due to your spouse. This includes things like child support, student loans, and federal or state taxes.
If you answer no to both of these questions, you don't qualify to request relief with this form. Talk with a tax pro to explore other options. If you answer yes to one or both of these questions, you can continue the application. The rest of the innocent spouse form will determine which type of relief (innocent spouse, separation of liability, or equitable relief) you qualify for.
Before you fill out the forms, go through the requirements for each type of relief. Jot down notes on why you meet the various requirements. Then, use those notes as you are filling out the forms. These forms all have lots of questions designed to make sure you meet the requirements.
What Is IRS Form 8857 (Request for Innocent Spouse Relief)?
IRS Form 8857 is a seven-page form to request innocent spouse relief. There are many questions asking about your situation and how you specifically meet the requirements. The IRS even asks questions about your education and professional experience. This information is mainly used to determine if you are educated enough or have had enough business experience to know if something was wrong with your tax filing. You may need to attach additional documents to support your claims. Be very careful when filling out this form. If you answer a single question incorrectly, the IRS may reject your request.
Questions on the IRS Innocent Spouse Relief Form
When you fill out the spouse relief form, you will need to provide the tax year that you want relief, your contact information, and the name of the spouse from your jointly filed return. You also need to answer the following questions:
- What is your marital status with the person who was on your joint tax return? If divorced, separated, or widowed, how long has it been?
- What was your highest level of education when you filed the joint return?
- Did you have mental or physical health problems when you filed the return? Do you currently have mental or physical health problems?
- Were you involved with preparing the return? How so?
- What did you know about your spouse or former spouse's income?
- Did you know about missing information on the joint tax return? Did you ask about this information?
- Were you having financial problems when you filed the return?
- How were you involved in the family finances the year you filed the joint return?
- Did you and your spouse or former spouse make any big purchases during the years you're requesting relief?
Those questions help the IRS assess your eligibility for relief. Then, to determine if you are facing financial hardship, the form requires you to reveal a lot of details about your financial situation. Finally, the form asks if you are a current or former victim of domestic violence. You can opt to add a code to your account so that when IRS employees speak with you, they are empathetic about your situation. But you don't have to add the code if you don't want to.
Deadline for the IRS Innocent Spouse Form
You generally must file form 8857 no later than 2 years after the IRS tries to collect from you (exception: equitable relief). Here are some collection activities by the IRS that start the 2-year period:
- Your income tax refund was offset by a joint tax return liability and the IRS let you know via a letter you can file form 8857
- If the IRS filed a claim in court in which you were a party or court proceeding involved your property. This includes filing a proof of claim in a bankruptcy proceeding.
- The U.S. filing a suit against you to collect on a tax debt from a joint tax return.
- You receive Letter 11, Letter 1058, or another section 6330 notice which tells you of IRS’s intent to levy and your right to a collection due process (CDP) hearing.
Innocent Spouse Relief Letter
A letter may be required if you're trying to get innocent spouse relief and you were a victim of abuse from your spouse/ex-spouse. Even if the letter is not required, it can help to strengthen your case. Some parts of Form 8857 don’t leave enough room for explanations. A letter gives you space to provide more details on why you should qualify for innocent spouse relief. You should also provide documents to support the claims in the letter. For example, if you were a victim of abuse, doctor notes and police reports can help.
Where to Send Your Request for Innocent Spouse Relief
Once you have completed everything, send your form and the supporting documents to the following locations.
If you are sending your documents through the United States postal service, use this address:
Internal Revenue Service
PO BOX 120053
Covington, KY 41012
If you are using a private carrier such as UPS or FedEx, send your request to:
Internal Revenue Service
201 W. Rivercenter Blvd., Stop 840F
Covington, KY 41011
If you have access to a fax, you can fax form 8857 and your attachments to the IRS at 1-855-233-8558. It is a good idea to put your social security number and name on any attachments you send.
What Is the IRS Innocent Spouse Relief Phone Number?
The IRS innocent spouse phone number is 866-681-4271. You can call this number Monday through Friday from 7 am to 7 pm local time if you want to request an innocent spouse form, ask questions about how to get innocent spouse relief, or check on the status of your application. Make sure you have details to verify your identity such as a copy of your last tax return, your innocent spouse application form, or a notice from the IRS.
How Long Does It Take to Process Innocent Spouse Relief?
According to the IRS, it takes up to six months to process innocent spouse relief. During the processing time, the IRS will reach out to the non-requesting spouse and possibly ask the requesting spouse (that's you — the person who filed the form) for more information as well. The exact time can vary based on the situation and IRS backlogs. Some accountants say the process can take a year. If you get denied and appeal, the process will take longer.
When You Should Not File Form 8857
There are certain situations when you should not file for relief using form 8857. Here are some examples:
- “No” is your answer to the first question on Form 8857
- You entered into a closing agreement already with the IRS for the same tax debt you are requesting relief for
- You entered into an Offer in Compromise with the IRS
- In a final decision, a court did not review whether to grant you relief from joint tax liability. However, you participated meaningfully and you did not ask for relief
- In a final court decision, the court did review whether to grant you relief from joint tax liability but did not approve it.
If you are looking for assistance in requesting innocent spouse relief, you can find tax professionals that have experience by starting your search below. At TaxCure, we have a network of professionals from around the country with diverse backgrounds and specialties. You can start your search by selecting the agencies or agencies you have a problem with. You will then be able to select "Innocent Spouse Relief" as a solution to see the top-rated pros who have experience with this type of tax relief.