Innocent Spouse Relief

    Innocent spouse relief can relieve you from paying additional taxes if your spouse understated taxes due on your joint tax return and you didn't know about the errors.

    Innocent spouse relief is only for taxes due on your spouse's income from employment or self-employment. You can't claim relief for taxes due on:

    • Your own income
    • Household employment taxes
    • Individual Shared Responsibility payments
    • Business taxes
    • Trust fund recovery penalties for employment taxes

    On This Page

    You May Be Eligible
    What to Do If You Receive a Notice
    Additional Types of Innocent Spouse Relief
    Knowledge of Errors
    Exception for Victims of Domestic Abuse
    When to Request Relief
    How to Request Relief
    After You Request Relief
    Appeal a Decision

    You May Be Eligible

    You may request innocent spouse relief if:

    • You filed a joint return with your spouse
    • Your taxes were understated due to errors on your return
    • You didn't know about the errors
    • You live in a community property state

    Errors that cause understated taxes include:

    • Unreported income
    • Incorrect deductions or credits
    • Incorrect values given for assets

    When you file a joint tax return with your spouse, regardless of how you file, you are both responsible for the tax and any interest or penalty due.

    This is true even if:

    • You later divorce
    • A divorce decree states that your spouse is responsible for the taxes
    • Your spouse earned all of the income

    We consider many facts about your situation before a decision is made.

    You are not eligible for relief in any year when:

    • You signed an offer in compromise with the IRS
    • You signed a closing agreement with the IRS covering the same taxes
    • A court made a final decision denying you relief
    • You participated in a related court proceeding and didn't ask for relief

    What to Do If You Receive a Notice

    If you receive a notice that you owe tax on a joint return, promptly follow the instructions in your letter. You may also learn that you owe additional taxes because of an audit.

    Request spouse relief as soon as you learn of the taxes due. See how to request innocent spouse relief.

    Additional Types of Innocent Spouse Relief

    When you apply for innocent spouse relief, we automatically apply these types of relief if you are eligible. You don't have to request them separately.

    Separation of Liability Relief

    If your joint tax return understated the amount of taxes due and you are divorced, separated or no longer living with your spouse, you may be able to pay only your share of the understated taxes.

    Find more about separation of liability relief.

    Equitable Relief

    If you are not eligible for other forms of relief, you may get relief from paying taxes that your spouse understated or underpaid if it would be unfair to hold you responsible based on all the facts and circumstances.

    Find more about equitable relief.

    Knowledge of Errors

    You can't claim innocent spouse relief for understated taxes if:

    • You had actual knowledge of the errors on your return
    • A reasonable person in similar circumstances would have known about the errors

    You had actual knowledge if:

    • You knew that your spouse received unreported income
    • You knew of facts that made a deduction or credit unallowable
    • You knew that your spouse deducted false or inflated expenses

    Exception for Victims of Domestic Abuse

    You may be eligible for relief even if you knew about errors if:

    • You were the victim of spousal abuse or domestic violence before signing the return
    • You didn't challenge the items on the return because of fear
    • You signed the joint return because you were pressured or threatened

    When to Request Relief

    You must request innocent spouse relief within 2 years of receiving an IRS notice of an audit or taxes due because of an error on your return.

    How to Request Relief

    To request relief, file Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief.

    Form 8857 covers innocent spouse relief, separation of liability and equitable relief. You don't have to try to figure out which type of relief best fits your situation. We will consider all of your information and apply the type of relief, if any, that you are eligible for.

    Find more about how to request innocent spouse relief.

    After You Request Relief

    We'll review your request and contact your spouse or former spouse to ask if they want to participate in the process.

    We may take up to 6 months or longer to review your request. While you wait, continue to file and pay your taxes as usual. When our review is complete, we'll send a letter of determination with our decision.

    Appeal a Decision

    Generally, both spouses have the right to appeal a spouse relief decision. You must appeal within 30 days from the date on your determination letter.

    Find more on how to appeal a spouse relief decision.