When a married couple files a joint tax return, each spouse is jointly and severally liable for the tax that is owed. They are also both responsible for any additions to the tax, interest, or penalties that arise from the joint return. These liabilities are true even if the spouses later decide to divorce or separate. An innocent spouse can obtain relief from liability for a jointly-filed return, however, by seeking Separation of Liability Relief.
Requirements for Separation of Liability Relief
Separation of Liability Relief is where the additional tax owed is allocated between you and your spouse. This occurs after an item is not properly reported on the jointly-filed tax return. Each spouse is then responsible only for the amount of unpaid tax debt that is specifically allocated to them, rather than each spouse being fully responsible for the entire debt as a whole. In order to qualify for this relief, you must have filed a joint tax return and you must meet at least one of the following requirements at the time you request the relief:
- You are divorced from the spouse with whom you filed the joint return.
- You are legally separated from the person with whom you filed the joint return.
- You are widowed.
- You have not been a member of the same household as the spouse with whom you filed the joint return at any time during the 12-month period ending on the date relief is requested.
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