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What can you do if you don’t qualify for innocent spouse relief?

| May 19, 2020 | Tax Debt

In a recent article, this blog discussed how to qualify for innocent spouse relief (“Could innocent spouse relief help with tax debt?” May 5, 2020). The problem is that not everyone will qualify for this type of relief from a spouse’s tax debt. If you attempted to receive this type of relief with no success, there could be at least one other option.

The IRS understands there are times when an individual needs relief from a spouse, soon-to-be former spouse or former spouse’s tax obligations. For this reason, the agency offers more than one way to seek relief.

Other ways to seek relief from a spouse’s tax debt

Each type of relief available from the IRS requires a refusal of the one before it. So, you would need to attempt innocent spouse relief before taking the next step. If you already did that with no success, then you could attempt the next two steps, but you must take them in the order below:

  • Separation of liability relief only applies to widows and widowers, individuals living separately for at least 12 months, or divorced individuals who feel they should not be responsible for the tax liability of the other party outlined in a joint income tax return. You also cannot have known about the item in question when you signed the joint return, unless you can prove you signed under duress.
  • The other option is to seek equitable relief, which can only be sought if you did not receive innocent spouse or separation of liability relief and it would be unfair for the IRS to consider you liable for your spouse or former spouse’s underpayment of tax or tax deficiency. You must still meet the other qualifications for innocent spouse relief, and the IRS will consider if the other party had financial control over you or abused you.

As is the case with any interaction with the IRS, the process is often not as simple as filling out a form. If you face an obligation to the IRS for a significant amount of money because of your spouse’s actions, you may be able to seek one of the three types of relief outlined in this article.

However, attempting to go up against the IRS on your own could result in another denial. To obtain an understanding of your rights and your options, it would benefit you greatly to discuss the matter with an experienced Georgia tax attorney.

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