For most people, receiving a letter from the IRS is a harmless communication or a helpful reminder. For some, however, it means that something has gone terribly wrong. Even worse, however, is when you are held responsible for issues created by your spouse.
Whether you are held responsible for your spouse’s tax debt hinges largely on your relationship status at the time in which your spouse incurred the debt. Additionally, if you filed jointly, you generally assume joint and several liability for the debt. While every situation is unique, there are three key factors that might clarify your position:
- Was the tax debt incurred before you were married? If your current spouse created the tax issue – intentionally or accidentally – prior to your marriage, the spouse is solely liable for the tax debt. This, however, does not mean you can ignore the IRS. You must contact a legal professional to make sure you apply for the correct status.
- Was the tax debt incurred during the marriage in a year you filed jointly? In this situation, you could potentially face tax liability. If you had no knowledge of the debt, you could apply for Innocent Spouse Relief. This could be a complex legal path, but you might be able to avoid the tax debt altogether.
- Was the debt incurred after your marriage ended? If you have separated, but the tax return was filed jointly, you might still be held liable for the tax debt. You could potentially apply for partial liability, so the responsibility does not fall entirely on your shoulders.
Each situation and every relationship is different. There is no one size fits all solution to tax liability issues. As soon as you realize there might be a problem, it is crucial that you seek the guidance of a trusted legal professional who can answer your questions and provide the representation you need.