Innocent Spouse


Innocent Spouse

The concept of “Innocent Spouse” refers to a provision in the tax law of many countries, including the United States, that provides relief to a spouse who may not be held responsible for the tax liabilities incurred by their partner. In the U.S., this provision is known as the “Innocent Spouse Relief” and is governed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under the U.S. tax code.

When a couple files a joint tax return, they are both jointly and severally liable for any tax owed, including any penalties and interest that may arise from errors or omissions on the return. This means that both spouses are equally responsible for the full amount of tax due, regardless of which spouse may have caused the error or omission. However, the Innocent Spouse Relief provision provides an exception to this rule, allowing an innocent spouse to be relieved of tax liabilities that are attributable to the other spouse’s wrongdoing or error.

Filing a joint tax return with an understatement of tax

The innocent spouse must have filed a joint tax return with their spouse that has an understatement of tax, which includes any deficiency in tax, as well as any understatement of income, credits, or deductions.

Lack of knowledge or reason to know

The innocent spouse must not have known, or had reason to know, about the understatement of tax at the time the joint return was filed. This means that the innocent spouse must not have been aware of the error or omission, or must not have had any reason to suspect that there was an error or omission on the return.

No benefit from the understatement

The innocent spouse must not have benefited from the understatement of tax. This means that the innocent spouse must not have received any money, property, or other benefits that were attributable to the error or omission on the joint return.

Request for relief

The innocent spouse must request relief from the IRS by filing Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief, within the applicable time period. The IRS will review the request and consider various factors, such as the innocent spouse's level of knowledge or involvement in the erroneous items on the return, the financial hardship that would be caused by holding the innocent spouse liable for the tax, and whether it would be unfair to hold the innocent spouse responsible for the tax.