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San Jose, CA tax debt relief attorneyWhen a married couple files a joint tax return, “joint and several liability” will apply to any tax debts related to that return. This means that if the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) conducts a tax audit and determines that the couple owes taxes due to erroneous information on their joint tax return, the spouses will be equally liable for paying these tax debts. This can sometimes come as a surprise, especially if a couple has gotten divorced since filing the joint tax return in question. Even if a divorce decree addressed tax issues and states that one spouse will be responsible for paying joint tax debts, the IRS can still pursue repayment from both spouses. However in some cases, a person may receive innocent spouse relief if they were not responsible for the tax debts.

Innocent Spouse Relief Eligibility Requirements

Innocent spouse relief may be available in situations where individual income taxes or self-employment taxes are owed to the IRS based on incorrect information on a couple’s joint tax return. To be eligible for innocent spouse relief, a person must be able to show that errors on a tax return were solely attributable to their current or former spouse. They will need to verify that when they signed the joint tax return, they did not know or could not reasonably have known about the errors.

A person may receive innocent spouse relief based on errors on a tax return related to unreported or misreported income or claiming of improper tax deductions, credits, or property basis. For example, if a person’s ex-spouse was a business owner, and they did not report all income earned through their business in a certain year, while also claiming tax deductions for business expenses without actually paying for those expenses, a tax audit may determine that taxes are owed. If the other spouse was not involved in the business and had no knowledge of the business’s finances, they may be eligible to receive innocent spouse relief, and the other spouse will be solely responsible for paying the tax debts.

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San Jose, CA tax lawyer for innocent spouse relief

Married couples have the option to file a joint tax return instead of separate tax returns. There are often benefits to choosing this filing status, but there can also be drawbacks. Couples who file jointly are “jointly and severally” responsible for any tax liability, interest, or penalties due. The terms “jointly and severally” mean that each spouse is legally responsible for the entire tax debt. When one spouse does not adequately fulfill his or her tax obligations, this can leave the other spouse in serious trouble with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Fortunately, there are several ways that a spouse in this situation can be released from tax liability. One of these types of tax relief is called “innocent spouse relief.”

What Is Innocent Spouse Relief?

Imagine this scenario: your wife is a business owner who struggles to keep track of her profits and expenses. When you jointly file your tax returns, the IRS notices that there are inconsistencies with the business income, expenses, and/or deductions. You are audited. As a result, both of you now owe a significant amount of money in back taxes. In situations like this, innocent spouse relief, also called innocent spouse protection, may help a guiltless spouse avoid his or her spouse’s tax liability.

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