Is the IRS coming after you for a tax debt incurred by your spouse? Do you feel it is unfair for you to be held liable for the debts of your husband and wife, even though you filed a joint tax return? Then you may need to file an innocent spouse relief will stop the government from coming after you and your assets … though, they will continue to attack your spouse.
Note that getting divorced, and having a court order requiring your spouse to pay all tax debts is not the same as innocent spouse relief. The IRS has the right to come after both parties if a joint tax return was filed. So, if the husband is ordered by the court to pay a tax and refuses or is unable to comply, the IRS will come after the wife. Then, it is up to her to collect on the court order (from her ex-husband). That is to say that the IRS is not bound by your divorce decree … that’s between you and your ex, not you and the IRS.
An innocent spouse claim will allow you to separate yourself from your spouse’s IRS debt, and get them to focus on him or her. That means that they may not attack your salary, separate property, bank accounts, where you’re the only signor, and other assets which are not comingled with your spouse.
Innocent spouse relief can be divided in to three categories: 1) full innocent spouse relief that exonerates you from the debt, 2) separation of liability, where you will need to pay some, but not all of the tax, and 3) equitable relief, where you will not be required to pay some or any of the debt because it is unfair to force you to do so.
The first and most important criterion to qualify for any of these versions of innocent spouse relief is that you must submit your claim no later than 2 years after the date the IRS first attempted to collect the tax from you. So, if the IRS has been coming after you for a few years now, you’re probably out of luck. This two year tax rule generally begins when notices are sent or your file was transferred to collections.