When Your Tax Liability Isn't Your Responsibility - Relief is Available - Order IRS Publication 971 for Specific Details
Innocent Spouse - Use IRS Form 8857
Injured Spouse - Use IRS Form 8379
Sometimes problems occur after a couple files a joint tax return and gets divorced. They may find that even though the divorce decree states that one of the spouses will be responsible for any taxes owed based on a jointly filed tax return, the IRS sees it differently.
When a couple files a joint tax return while married, both of them are jointly and individually responsible for any tax owed. Yes, this means that one spouse may be held responsible for all the tax due even if all the income was earned by the other spouse.
Attempting to remove joint liability by amending jointly filed tax returns and claiming a different filing status such as single or married filed separate returns, is not allowed. The filing status cannot be changed from married filing jointly to a different filing status.
So, how does a spouse get excused from tax liability? In some cases, a spouse will be relieved of the tax, interest, and penalties on a joint tax return. Three types of relief are available.
Each type of relief has different requirements. You are not required to figure the tax, interest, and penalties that qualify for relief. The IRS will figure these amounts after you file Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief.
You can only qualify for equitable relief if you do not qualify for innocent spouse relief or relief by separation of liability.
Married persons who file separate returns in community property states may also qualify for relief. Refer to Community Property Laws for specific information.
INNOCENT OR INJURED SPOUSE?
You are an injured spouse if your share of the overpayment shown on your joint return was, or is expected to be, applied against your spouse's past-due federal debts, state taxes, or child or spousal support payments. If you are an injured spouse, you may be entitled to receive a refund of your share of the overpayment. For more information, get Form 8379, Injured Spouse Claim and Allocation.