IRS Eases ‘Innocent Spouse Relief’ Rules

The IRS announced this week that it is scaling back its restrictions on filing for innocent spouse relief, making it easier for taxpayers to stay off the hook for tax debts and other tax-related shenanigans committed by their spouses.

When you file a joint income tax return, the law makes both you and your spouse responsible for any tax debts and other liability. Innocent spouse relief is meant to help taxpayers who didn’t know — and had no reason to know — that their spouse was underpaying taxes or failing to pay taxes altogether. Until this week, people trying to qualify for equitable relief as an innocent spouse had to file their request within two years of the time that the IRS’s collection efforts first began.

So, what was the problem with the old two-year limit? It wasn’t unusual for a truly innocent spouse to be unaware of their not-so-innocent spouse’s tax problems (including the IRS’s collection efforts) for over two years. And under the old rules, if you discovered your spouse’s wrongdoing too late (after that two-year window had closed), the IRS said your innocent spouse claim was SOL.

Get details on this week’s IRS announcement here, and for everything you ever wanted to know about innocent spouse claims, check out IRS Publication 971: Innocent Spouse Relief.