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Publication 971 - Introductory Material

What's New

The Internal Revenue Service has issued Revenue Procedure 2013–34, available at–34_IRB/ar07.html. This revenue procedure expands how the IRS will take into account abuse and financial control by the nonrequesting spouse in determining whether equitable relief is warranted. It also broadens the availability of refunds in cases involving deficiencies. See Equitable Relief and Refunds , later.

Future Developments

For the latest information about developments related to Publication 971, such as legislation enacted after it was published, go to Or use your QR Reader app to scan the code below and be connected to the webpage.

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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 taxes, and the IRS can still collect them 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 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 send us comments from Click on “More Information” and then on “Give us feedback.

  Or you can write to:

Internal Revenue Service 
Tax Forms and Publications 
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.

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

Ordering forms and publications.    Visit to download forms and publications. Otherwise, you can go to to order forms or call 1-800-829-3676 to order current and prior-year forms and instructions. Your order should arrive within 10 business days.

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 1-855-851-2009.

Useful Items - You may want to see:


  • 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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