Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why am I Responsible for my Spouse's Tax Debt?

So the IRS sent you a letter informing you that you owe them $50,000 in taxes. This must be wrong. Besides, you paid your taxes through your company who withheld taxes directly from your paycheck. You paid your taxes and then some. In fact, the IRS owes you a refund. Why then are you receiving notices for payment on taxes you don't owe? You filed your return as "Married & Joint" and your spouse worked as an independent contractor for a company who did not take any taxes out of her paycheck. She owes money on her taxes even though you don't. Can you be held accountable for her debt? In a word -- ABSOLUTELY!

There is a category you may want to check into however. It is called "Innocent Spouse" and it is designed for those who are being held accountable for debt for which they had no control. To find out if you are eligible for this status check out the qualifications in the IRS tax code. Some of the questions you need to answer are as follows:

  • Are the taxes owed from your spouse or ex-spouse?
  • You did not significantly benefit (above normal support) from the unpaid taxes?
  • You suffered abuse in your marriage?

If you can answer "yes" to any or all of the above questions you may be able to qualify for this unique designation. You will need to file a Form 8857 with the IRS to be granted a formal determination. One thing to keep in mind, however, you must have documented proof of the above factors. All of the above are hard to prove and if you filed your return for the year in question as "married and joint" you will have a hard time proving you are an innocent spouse. The obligation for accurate tax reporting ultimately comes down the taxpayer and once you sign your return you are responsible for the information on it.

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