Married individuals who choose to file a joint tax return are each liable for any IRS obligations that arise after the return is filed. Because of the joint filing status, earlier debts of one filer may reduce the amount of a joint refund for the current year. Individuals who discover their tax refund reduced due to past obligations of a spouse have options to recover a portion of the refund.
If you have been subject to a refund offset due to the obligations of a spouse or a former spouse, there are two tax provisions that may provide relief. The two provisions have confusingly similar names but serve different functions. With the most common option, you are referred to as an injured spouse. If the other option is applicable, you are referred to an innocent spouse.
Refund offsets typically occur due to past-due obligations for child support, student loans, or even unpaid taxes. To qualify as an injured spouse, you must have income or be entitled to a tax credit that would have produced a refund had you filed on your own. Use IRS Form 8379 to claim your refund portion, which is based on the allocation of tax attributes between you and your spouse.
Form 8379 can be filed in a few different ways. If you are amending other aspects of your tax return, include Form 8379 with the amended return. Form 8379 can be filed separately, which is what usually occurs after married tax filers initially learn they are subject to a refund offset. Tax filers who expect a refund offset can include Form 8379 with their original Form 1040.
The tax problems that create the need for an injured spouse allocation are transparent and straightforward, based on a correct return. In contrast, the innocent spouse provision is applicable to tax returns of a more fraudulent nature.
On rare occasions, joint tax return filers unknowingly learn that their spouse has intentionally understated their income or overstated their deductions. Because of the joint liability, both spouses are then responsible for any subsequent increase in tax. If applicable to your situation, file IRS Form 8857 to request relief as an innocent spouse.
IRS tax problems often come to light after a divorce, but they can emerge at any time. If you are having issues with IRS tax, contact a tax resolution service for more assistance in filing Form 8379 or Form 8857.