My husband failed to include income from his side business in our income tax return. Will the IRS hold me responsible for the tax deficiency?

When married spouses filing a joint tax return, spouses must ensure that the tax return is accurate and if there is a tax deficiency, both spouses are responsible for paying it. In certain situations, the IRS will release one spouse from liability to pay the tax deficiency. Release from having to pay tax deficiencies caused by one’s spouse is called “innocent spouse relief” and it is granted in exceptional circumstances.

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Can abuse victims qualify for innocent spouse relief from having to pay delinquent income taxes?

Whether the the spousal abuse was physical or mental, they are both treated equally under IRS guidelines for determining if abused spouses can qualify for innocent spouse relief. In these situations, women may not have the opportunity to evaluate or understand financial matters, particularly income tax returns. In this event, the IRS will grant relief from having to pay for delinquent taxes which were mainly due to the former spouse’s fraudulent behavior.

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What is innocent spouse relief?

The IRS has the power to release a spouse from direct financial liability for unpaid taxes. This release from responsibility from having to pay tax debts of the other spouse (or estranged spouse) is called innocent spouse relief. The IRS will conduct an evaluation of the spouse’s education, work experience, relationship status (still married, divorced, or separated), physical or mental disabilities, and level of involvement in household finances to determine whether the spouse can qualify for innocent spouse relief.

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I knew my husband excluded income from our joint tax return, but he lied to me. Will the IRS still hold me responsible for unpaid taxes?

It is not sufficient to simply say that your husband lied to you regarding intentional omissions from a joint income tax return. Lack of knowledge regarding tax laws is also not a valid argument when trying to obtain relief from a tax deficiency arising from one spouse’s failure to include income or understate tax owed on an income tax return. However, if the spouse seeking relief can prove that she did make an effort to inquire and was repeatedly lied to about the couple’s finances then the IRS can release a spouse from liability for a tax deficiency.

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