Innocent Spouse Relief

If you were unaware of your spouse or former spouse’s tax liability, innocent spouse relief is a tax resolution strategy that might help you. Innocent spouse relief is a more complicated form of tax resolution because there are three different options that fall under this notion, all of which, requiring a list of stipulations needed to meet in order to qualify.

1. Innocent Spouse Relief

Traditional innocent spouse relief can provide you relief from the tax debts you owe, if you were unaware that your spouse or former spouse: failed to report income, reported income improperly, or claimed improper tax deductions or credits.

Requirements that must all be met to qualify for innocent spouse relief:

  • You must have filed a joint return that has an erroneous item (such as an understatement of income or incorrectly reported deductions, credits, or property basis) that can be solely attributed to your spouse.
  • You must prove that at the time you signed the return, you did not know (and had no reason to know) that there was an unlawful understatement of tax
  • You must prove that, under your circumstances, it would be unfair to hold you liable for this understatement of tax.

2. Separation of Liability Relief

Separation of liability relief applies when you filed a joint tax return, had no knowledge of erroneous tax items, and are also either:

  • No longer married to (including having been widowed) or are legally separated from the spouse with whom you filed the joint tax return


  • No longer a member of the same household as the spouse with whom you filed the joint tax return (and have not been for at least 12 months)

3. Equitable Relief

If you still should not be liable for a tax debt from a joint filing but do not qualify for innocent spouse relief or separation of liability relief, you may qualify for equitable relief. The IRS wants to provide relief to those who were unaware or not at fault for the creation of tax liabilities. This option is for those who have a more complicated case, but would still be considered an innocent spouse.

It’s Important to Know:

  • First and foremost, remember that is a complicated kind of tax relief that you will likely want to seek professional assistance with.
  • You will need to build a case by gathering facts and evidence. If you are unfamiliar with these tax relief situations, you should consult an experienced tax relief expert like those here at Vanguard Tax Relief.
  • For innocent spouse relief and separation of liability relief, you must file your request within 2 years after the date the IRS first tried to collect this tax from you.
  • For equitable relief, you must request relief during the time when the IRS can collect from you.
  • If you are seeking to collect a refund of tax you have already paid (only available under circumstances of innocent spouse relief or equitable relief, not under separation of liability relief), you must do so within either 3 years since the tax return in question was filed or within 2 years of paying the tax (whichever is later).

If you are seeking tax relief and think that innocent spouse relief might be for you, it’s a good idea to seek the help of tax experts like those at Vanguard Tax Relief. Filing for this type of tax relief can be confusing, not only because there are multiple types of innocent spouse relief, but because it involves proving not knowing something. Proving knowledge is more complicated than simply having to provide financial documents. A tax expert who is experienced with getting innocent spouse relief approvals can help you take the right steps toward obtaining this relief.

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