Publication 971 - Introductory Material


What's New

Expanded filing deadline for equitable relief. The period of time in which you may request equitable relief has been expanded. See How To Request Relief later.

More information.  For more information about the latest developments on Publication 971, go to www.irs.gov/pub971.

Introduction

When you file a joint income tax return, the law makes both you and your spouse responsible for the entire tax liability. This is called joint and several liability. Joint and several liability applies not only to the tax liability you show on the return but also to any additional tax liability the IRS determines to be due, even if the additional tax is due to income, deductions, or credits of your spouse or former spouse. You remain jointly and severally liable for the taxes, and the IRS still can collect from you, even if you later divorce and the divorce decree states that your former spouse will be solely responsible for the tax.

In some cases, a spouse (or former spouse) will be relieved of the tax, interest, and penalties on a joint tax return. Three types of relief are available to married persons who filed joint returns.

  1. Innocent spouse relief.

  2. Separation of liability relief.

  3. Equitable relief.

Married persons who did not file joint returns, but who live in community property states, may also qualify for relief. See Community Property Laws , later.

This publication explains these types of relief, who may qualify for them, and how to get them. You can also use the Innocent Spouse Tax Relief Eligibility Explorer at IRS.gov by entering “Innocent Spouse” in the search box.

What this publication does not cover.   This publication does not discuss injured spouse relief. You are an injured spouse if your share of the overpayment shown on your joint return was, or is expected to be, applied (offset) against your spouse's legally enforceable past-due federal taxes, state income taxes, state unemployment compensation debts, child or spousal support payments, or a federal nontax debt, such as a student loan. If you are an injured spouse, you may be entitled to receive a refund of your share of the overpayment. For more information, see Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation.

Comments and suggestions.   We welcome your comments about this publication and your suggestions for future editions.

  You can write to us at the following address:

 
Internal Revenue Service 
Individual Forms and Publications Branch 
SE:W:CAR:MP:T:I 
1111 Constitution Ave. NW, IR-6526 
Washington, DC 20224

  We respond to many letters by telephone. Therefore, it would be helpful if you would include your daytime phone number, including the area code, in your correspondence.

  You can email us at taxforms@irs.gov. Please put “Publications Comment” on the subject line. You can also send us comments from www.irs.gov/formspubs/, select “Comment on Tax Forms and Publications” under “Information about.

  Although we cannot respond individually to each email, we do appreciate your feedback and will consider your comments as we revise our tax products.

Ordering forms and publications.   Visit www.irs.gov/formspubs to download forms and publications, call 1-800-829-3676, or write to the address below and receive a response within 10 days after your request is received.

 
Internal Revenue Service 
1201 N. Mitsubishi Motorway 
Bloomington, IL 61705-6613

Questions about innocent spouse relief.

The IRS can help you with your request for innocent spouse relief. If you are working with an IRS employee, you can ask that employee, or you can call 866-897-4270.

Useful Items - You may want to see:

Publications

  • 504 Divorced or Separated Individuals

  • 555 Community Property

  • 556 Examination of Returns, Appeal Rights, and Claims for Refund

  • 594 The IRS Collection Process

Forms (and Instructions)

  • 8857 Request for Innocent Spouse Relief


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