Filing for taxes ranks right up with getting your teeth pulled for many Americans. Often, people pass the task off to someone else. Perhaps you asked your present or former spouse to fill out your tax return. Now you have received a letter stating that you underreported your taxes. It seems you may owe the IRS money.
You should not immediately assume you and your current, or former spouse, both owe the IRS this money. If you had no idea about the mistake on your joint return, you may be eligible to request innocent spouse relief from the IRS. Innocent spouse relief frees you from paying interest, penalties or tax on things that were underreported on your tax return. There are several criteria you must meet to successfully qualify for innocent spouse relief.
The return has errors
If you are receiving a letter from the IRS, it is likely there were errors on your return. These errors usually include underreporting your income, taking the wrong kinds of deductions or over-claiming on deductions taken. Your return must also have been a joint return to qualify for innocent spouse relief.
You did not know about the error
More than just stating you did not know, you will also have to prove that you did not know about the errors. You will also have to show there was no reason for you to know about the errors. If the IRS believes a reasonable person should have known about the mistake, your claim may be denied.
It is unfair to hold you liable
This is a trickier element. If you received a significant benefit from underreporting on your return, the IRS will likely find this suspicious and may deny your claim. However, if you and your spouse are no longer together, the IRS may view this as proof that your spouse was often untruthful with you. This would support your claim that you had no reason to know about the mistakes on the return.
Assuming you meet all these criteria, you may qualify for innocent spouse relief on your return. This underreported money will then need to be paid by your current or former spouse. For any items that do not qualify for relief, you and your current, or former spouse, are both held responsible.