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 tax debt, 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 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 types 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.

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 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.