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Can the IRS force a former spouse to pay a debt?

On Behalf of | Sep 30, 2022 | Tax Controversies |

You do not want the stress or responsibility of a tax debt hanging over your head. What happens when a former spouse does not pay the requisite taxes? Can the IRS come after you?

Many factors determine whether or not the government can collect your ex-spouse’s debt from you. Learn more about what happens if the IRS comes knocking on your door.

When did the debt occur?

One factor is the timing of the tax shortfall. If you were a party to the tax return, you may bear responsibility. Since the IRS may go back three years when reviewing tax returns, you may find yourself a party to any audit or collection activity if your divorce occurred within that timeframe.

What if your ex caused the liability?

If your spouse handled your tax returns, you may not know anything nefarious occurred until the IRS notice. Since both spouses acknowledge liability for the debt, even if you do not both know about the problem, the only way you can attempt to get the IRS to let you off the hook is to file for relief, including:

  • Innocent spouse if you can show that you did not know your former spouse underreported income. This works after divorce or during your separation.
  • Equitable relief may apply if your reported income was correct, but you did not pay the proper taxes.
  • Separation of liability relief may enable you to divide the tax liability into proportionate shares between you and your ex.

Filing for relief from your former spouse’s tax burden may feel overwhelming. You may want to enlist the assistance of someone who can guide you through the process and provide advice for making sure you can remain free of his or her tax debt.