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March 11, 2022


My spouse did not pay enough taxes but I signed the form. Am I liable?

There is something known as innocent spouse tax relief which can relief one spouse from any IRS garnishment. However, there are several questions that need to be answered first.

Five important questions

Because of a reform of the Internal Revenue Code, the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 (RRA 98) made it possible for innocent spouses to not be held liable under certain circumstances. This assumes that the other spouse filed the taxes in a joint return and was responsible for the underpayment. If you can answer no to these questions, it is likely you will not have to pay:

  1. Did you have any reason to know about the underpayment?
  2. Did you directly and significantly benefit from the underpayment?
  3. Are you able to pay it without suffering economic hardship?
  4. Were you otherwise in compliance?
  5. Are you bound by a divorce decree to pay it?

A requesting spouse is supported in their efforts not to have to pay if the marriage involved a history of abuse, deceit, or manipulation by the other spouse. If it can be shown that the liability for the non-payment lies with the non-requesting spouse, then you have improved chances. You can read more about this on the Brown website page about innocent spouse tax relief.

Can I keep my refund if I married someone who owes back taxes?

The short answer is yes. You may be able to file a Form 8379. This may allow you to keep your refund, even if you filed jointly. This is known as an “injured spouse” claim.