Injured spouse relief

Injured spouse relief can help you get back your share of a federal tax refund that was reduced to pay your spouse's debts. Refunds on a joint tax return may be applied to overdue debts such as:

  • Past-due child support
  • Debts to federal agencies
  • State income tax obligations
  • State unemployment compensation debts

On this page

You may be eligible
What to do if you receive a notice
When to request relief
How to request relief
After you request relief

You may be eligible

You may be eligible for injured spouse relief if:

  • You filed a joint return with your spouse
  • Your tax refund was applied to your spouse's overdue debts
  • You weren't responsible for the debt

Married persons who file separate returns in community property states may also qualify for relief. See Community property laws for more information.

Find out if you are eligible for injured spouse relief.

What to do if you receive a notice

If we reduce your refund, you'll get a Notice of Offset from the IRS or the U.S. Treasury's Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS) showing:

  • The original refund amount
  • The amount applied to your spouse's debt
  • The agency receiving the payment
  • The address and phone number of the agency

If you believe you don't owe the debt or you disagree with the amount taken from your refund, follow the instructions on your notice.

If you didn't receive a notice, contact the Bureau of the Fiscal Service's Treasury Offset Program (TOP) call center at 800-304-3107 (or TTY/TDD 800-877-8339), Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central time.

When to request relief

File Form 8379 within 3 years from date the return was filed or 2 years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. If you didn't file a return, you must file within 2 years of the date the tax was paid.

Find details, including times when those periods may be extended, in Internal Revenue Code Section 6511.

How to request relief

To request injured spouse relief, file Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation. You can file it with your tax return by mail or electronically. You can also mail it separately when you receive notice that your refund was applied to an outstanding debt.

Fill in your taxpayer identification numbers in the same order as they appear on your joint tax return. Follow the Form 8379 instructions carefully and attach all required forms such as W-2s and 1099s. You must file a new Form 8379 for each year when you want to reclaim a refund.

Mail Form 8379 to the IRS Service Center where you filed your original return.

After you request relief

It can take us up to 8 weeks to process Form 8379 by itself and longer if you file it with your tax return. We calculate the amount of refund you can claim. If you lived in a community property state, we divide the refund based on state community property law.

Not all debts can legally be taken out of a tax refund. To determine whether a debt other than federal tax can be taken from your refund, contact BFS's TOP call center at 800-304-3107 (800-877-8339 for TTY/TDD help).