Innocent Spouse Relief

March 9, 2017

Obtaining innocent spouse relief from income tax obligations isn’t an easy task.  I recently had a client come in and ask for help applying for relief and was reminded of the difficulties involved in obtaining that relief. In addition to the instructions for the Request For Innocent Spouse Relief (see below), IRS Publication 971 provides guidance about the process of filing for inocent spouse relief.

For starters, there’s the two year window within which a taxpayer needs to make application to the Internal Revenue Service.  That period is measured from the date the IRS first sends a collection letter, although certain exceptions may apply to grant a taxpayer additional time.  Actions that may start the two year window include when the IRS offsets your income tax refund to pay back taxes or other debts and advised you about your right to file a Form 8857, the filing of a claim by the IRS in a court action to which you were a party, the filing by the IRS of a lawsuit against you, and the IRS notifies you of an intent to levy and your right to a collection due process hearing.  The IRS usually notifies you of its intent to levey with either Letter 11 or Letter 1058.

In order to obtain relief, a taxpayer needs to file a Form 8857, Request For Innocent Spouse Relief with the IRS.  If you’re filing for relief for more than six tax years, multiple Forms 8857 will need to be filed. Significantly, though, the taxpayer should attach supporting documentation to their request for relief.  While individual circumstances may vary, a copy of a filing for divorce, a divorce decree, documentation evidencing physical or mental abuse, as well as evidence of forged returns might all come into play.

Taxpayers filing for innocent spouse relief should be aware that the IRS willl notify their spouse or former spouse in order to permit him or her to participate in the process and there are no exceptions, even for victims of domestic violence or spousal abuse.

If you need assistance filing a Request for Innocent Spouse Relief, contact an experienced New York tax attorney at Mackay, Caswell & Callahan, P.C. today. With over 30 years’ tax and legal experience, we’re here to help.


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