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Form 8857

Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief

Introduction

In terms of tax obligations, filing jointly as a married couple can often simplify the process and potentially result in beneficial tax outcomes. However, this joint filing also carries the weight of joint responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided and the taxes owed. Situations can arise where one spouse may find themselves unfairly burdened by the tax debts incurred due to the other spouse’s erroneous reporting or deceptive actions. This is where Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief, becomes critically important.

Form 8857 is a specialized IRS document that enables an individual to seek relief from joint tax liabilities under specific circumstances. This relief is particularly relevant in cases where one spouse, unknowingly or without involvement, is subjected to tax penalties, interests, or liabilities arising from inaccuracies or fraud committed by the other spouse on a jointly filed return. The ability to request such relief is an essential aspect of ensuring fairness and justice within the tax system, allowing the innocent spouse to dissociate from the fiscal repercussions of their partner’s actions.

Form 8857

Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief, is an official IRS document that allows individuals to request relief from joint tax liabilities under specific conditions. This form is pertinent for those who believe they should not be held responsible for the tax liabilities, penalties, and interest due to errors committed by their spouse or ex-spouse on a jointly filed tax return. This form is regulated under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 6015​.

Regulations

The regulations that govern Innocent Spouse Relief are primarily found in IRC Section 6015, which outlines the conditions and types of relief available:

  1. Innocent Spouse Relief: For spouses who were unaware of errors leading to an understated tax.
  2. Separation of Liability Relief: Allows separation of tax liabilities for divorced, legally separated, or not living together individuals.
  3. Equitable Relief: Applies when neither of the above types are applicable but it would be unfair to hold the requesting spouse liable​.

Individuals who should consider fulfilling these tax obligations include:

  • Those who have filed joint tax returns with their spouse or ex-spouse.
  • Individuals who are unaware of significant errors on their joint tax return that led to understated taxes.
  • Residents in community property states where both spouses’ income and liabilities are considered joint​​.

Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief, might be needed in several specific situations where one spouse should not be held liable for tax understatements due to the actions or errors of the other spouse on a jointly filed tax return. Here are some common scenarios:

  1. Unreported Income:
    • One spouse may have failed to report income, leading to an understatement of tax. If the other spouse was unaware of this unreported income and had no reason to know about it, they may qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief.
  2. Erroneous Deductions or Credits:
    • Situations where one spouse claims improper deductions or credits without the knowledge or consent of the other spouse. For example, false business expenses or inflated charitable contributions could result in understated taxes.
  3. Fraudulent Activities:
    • If one spouse engages in fraudulent activities, such as inflating expenses or not reporting all income and the other spouse had no knowledge of these actions, the innocent spouse might be relieved from the resulting tax liabilities.
  4. Separation or Divorce:
    • After a divorce or legal separation, one spouse may discover that their former spouse engaged in deceptive tax practices during the marriage. In such cases, the innocent spouse might seek relief from liabilities that were a result of the ex-spouse’s actions.
  5. Coerced Signing:
    • If a spouse was forced or coerced into signing a joint return that contained erroneous information, they might be eligible for relief. This could include situations involving domestic abuse where the abusive spouse controlled the financial affairs and tax filings.
  6. Community Property States:
    • In community property states, both spouses are considered to equally own income earned during the marriage. If one spouse underreports income or overstates deductions, the innocent spouse might need to file Form 8857 to seek relief from the joint liability.
  7. Deceptive Financial Practices:
    • A spouse may have hidden financial transactions or accounts from their partner, leading to discrepancies in reported income or deductions. The innocent spouse, upon discovering these practices, may apply for relief to avoid being unfairly burdened.
  8. Posthumous Discoveries:
    • If a spouse dies, and the surviving spouse later discovers tax understatements due to the deceased spouse’s actions, they might file for relief to avoid being held liable for those past errors.
  9. Misrepresentation of Tax Liabilities:
    • Situations where one spouse misrepresents or hides the extent of tax liabilities from the other, leading to a surprise tax bill that the unaware spouse believes should not be their responsibility.

To qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief, the requesting spouse must demonstrate that they did not know and had no reason to know of the errors leading to the understated tax. They must also show that it would be unfair to hold them liable for the resulting tax debt. The IRS will evaluate each case individually, considering all relevant facts and circumstances

Process Steps for Form 8857

The process for requesting Innocent Spouse Relief involves several steps:

  1. Filing Form 8857: The form should be filled out with detailed information about the taxpayer, their spouse and the tax years in question. It must be filed separately from the tax return.
  2. Submitting the Form: The completed form should be mailed to the IRS or faxed to the designated IRS number. Do not include it with the regular tax return​​.
  3. IRS Review: The IRS reviews the request and may contact the spouse or ex-spouse for additional information. They will consider various factors including the knowledge and involvement of the requesting spouse.
  4. Notification and Appeal: Both spouses will be notified of the IRS’s preliminary and final determination. If relief is denied, there is a right to appeal within 30 days​ ​.

Services Provided by Dimov Tax & CPA Services

Dimov Tax & CPA Services can assist clients in the following ways:

  • Consultation: Offering expert advice to determine eligibility for Innocent Spouse Relief.
  • Form Preparation: Assisting in the accurate and thorough completion of Form 8857.
  • Documentation Assistance: Help in gathering and organizing necessary documentation to support the relief request.
  • IRS Communication: Acting as a representative to handle communications and negotiations with the IRS.
  • Appeal Support: Providing support and representation in case an appeal is necessary.

Conclusion

Filing joint tax returns can lead to complications when discrepancies arise due to one spouse’s errors or deceptive practices. Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief, serves as a vital tool for individuals seeking to dissociate themselves from unfair tax liabilities resulting from their spouse’s actions. By providing a structured process for requesting relief, the IRS ensures that fairness is maintained within the tax system.

For those facing the burden of joint tax liabilities due to their spouse’s errors, exploring the options provided by Innocent Spouse Relief is an essential step toward resolving their tax issues. By leveraging the expertise of tax professionals, individuals can confidently address their concerns and work towards a fair resolution.

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