Home | Am I An Injured Spouse or an Innocent Spouse?

Am I An Injured Spouse or an Innocent Spouse?

Sep 12, 2022

Filing a joint tax return with your spouse has many benefits. However, what you may not know is that there are also disadvantages! Did you know that both parties are jointly liable for associated tax debts when filing a joint tax return? This may be fine if you are both making financial decisions, but what about if your spouse has been involved in financial activities that you were unaware of? It doesn’t seem fair that you would be penalized for something you did not know anything about. The good news is that tax debt solutions are designed to help in this situation. It is possible to submit a petition for either injured or innocent spouse relief.

Let’s take a closer look at these often-overlooked debt solutions.

Why Am I Liable For My Spouse’s Tax Debts?

You may be wondering why you are liable for your spouse’s tax debts in the first place. The IRS uses a legal theory known as joint and several liabilities, which means that multiple individuals can be held responsible for one action. In the case of a jointly filed tax return, both parties are responsible for unpaid taxes - even if only one of you misrepresented your income or tax liability on the tax return.

What Qualifies as an Injured Spouse?

Despite the name, 'injured spouse' has nothing to do with physical injury. You may qualify as an injured spouse if you filed a joint tax return and all or part of your overpayment is applied to your spouse’s tax debts. These debts may include past-due federal or state taxes, child support, spousal support, or non-tax debts like student loans. To qualify for tax debt solutions as an injured spouse, the following requirements must apply:

  • You are not required to pay a past-due amount.
  • You reported any income you received on your joint tax return.
  • You made and reported tax payments on that declared income.

What Qualifies as an Innocent Spouse?

Innocent spouse relief is a little different as it is a claim for relief or allocation of joint and several liabilities on a joint tax return. For innocent spouse relief, you must have been unaware that your spouse was understating their tax liability. Applicants must meet three main requirements if they are interested in pursuing tax debt solutions of this type. These requirements are:

  • The applicant must have filed a joint tax return that includes an understatement of tax due to erroneous items attributed to their spouse.
  • The applicant must have been unaware of the understatement at the time of signing the joint tax return.
  • You must prove that holding the applicant liable for their spouse’s understatement of tax would be unfair.

This may sound a little complicated if you are not well versed in tax debt solutions... understandably so! You are likely unfamiliar with some of the phrases used by the IRS as they apply to these situations, so let’s explore two of the most common to help you better follow the definition between these two options:

Erroneous Items

When we talk about erroneous items, these will usually fall into one of two different categories: unreported income or incorrect deduction, credit, or basis.

Actual Knowledge or Reason to Know

One of the conditions of innocent spouse relief is that the applicant has no actual knowledge, or reason to know, about the understatement of tax. Any understanding of erroneous items belonging to your spouse means you cannot claim as an innocent spouse. Determining if you had reason to know is a little more complex and will require careful consideration of the facts, your financial situation, your education and background, and even your level of participation in activities resulting in erroneous items.

Indications of Unfairness

One of the key requirements for innocent spouse relief is that it would be unfair to hold the applicant responsible for the understatement of their spouse. The IRS will examine a variety of things before deciding whether or not holding you responsible is unfair. Some of the things that will be considered include:

  • Does the applicant receive a significant benefit as a direct or indirect result of the understatement?
  • Has the applicant’s spouse deserted them?
  • Is the applicant divorced or separated from their spouse?

If you are looking for tax debt solutions following a joint tax return and think you may be eligible to petition as an injured or innocent spouse, get in touch with Golden Lion Tax Solutions today to discuss your options. We will work with you as your partner to resolve your tax debt and alleviate the stress weighing you down. Your peace of mind starts with Golden Lion Tax Solutions.


Trust. Protection. Wisdom.

Your future and your family deserve the right protection. Golden Lion Tax Solutions will be your advisor and confidant throughout the entire journey. We guarantee to offer you or your business best-case solutions for your tax debt. We are by your side every step of the way. Start now and get your life back.

For help with your tax debts, email contactus@goldenliontaxsolutions.com or call 833-LION-TAX (833-546-6829)

Disclaimer: There are requirements that must be satisfied in order to qualify for some of the tax solutions we discuss on our website. Not all of our services will be suitable for every client. Golden Lion Tax Solutions is here to help you find the most appropriate solution to fit your situation.