How to Request IRS Injured Spouse Relief

How to Request IRS Injured Spouse Relief

The IRS offers injured spouse relief when a married couple files a joint tax return and expects to receive a tax refund but instead receives an IRS notice claiming one spouse owes past due debts. Filing a request for injured spouse relief may allow the spouse without a tax debt to receive their part of a tax refund.

How Can You Qualify for Injured Spouse Relief?

Qualifying for injured spouse relief means the “injured” spouse cannot be legally liable for either part or all of the tax debt owed by the other spouse. In most cases of a spouse seeking injured spouse relief, the tax owed to the IRS is a premarital tax debt incurred by the other spouse.

You might not be awarded your portion of a tax refund if you did not have income for the tax year in question. If you earned money from investments or interest, however, this could help you qualify for injured spouse relief. You must also show you paid federal taxes to qualify for your part of the tax refund.

How do I request Injured Spouse Relief from the IRS?

If you think you should receive part of a federal tax refund but did not due to your spouse owing a tax debt, you will need to submit IRS Form 8379 to request injured spouse relief.

In addition to completing Form 8379, you will have to send copies of you and your spouse’s W-2s and/or 1099s to the IRS. Social security numbers for both spouses are required but only the spouse requesting injured spouse relief must sign Form 8379.

One way to file Form 8379 is to attach it to your tax return. This allows the IRS to examine and process your injured spouse relief request before taking the tax refund.

How Long Will the IRS Injured Spouse Relief Process Take?

It could take up to four months before you hear from the IRS about whether you qualify for injured spouse relief. This depends on how and when you file Form 8379.

Here are the general injured spouse relief processing times from the official IRS website:

  • Filing Form 8379 with your joint tax return electronically: 11 Weeks
  • Filing Form 8379 with your joint tax return by mail: 14 Weeks
  • Filing Form 8379 after your joint tax return was processed: 8 Weeks

Qualifying for Injured Spouse Relief Doesn’t Mean Your Tax Refund Can’t Be Seized

Although you qualify for injured spouse relief, government agencies can still seize a federal tax refund for the following reasons:

  • You are in default of a student loan (federal)
  • You owe back alimony or child support to one or more previous spouses
  • You were overpaid unemployment compensation by your state
  • You owe state and/or federal tax debts on separately filed tax returns

If the IRS approves your injured spouse relief request, and you do not owe one or more of the above debts, you should receive part of the federal tax refund equal to what you personally paid in taxes. For example, if someone qualifies for injured spouse relief and does not owe back student loans, child support or overpaid unemployment compensation, the IRS should send a tax refund for approximately half of the original amount of the tax refund.

What Can I Do If the IRS Already Took Part of My Tax Refund Before I Requested Injured Spouse Relief?

Even if the IRS already took part or all of your tax refund, they’ll still review and process your injured spouse Form 8397 when they receive it. If they approve your injured spouse relief request, the IRS will then calculate how much of the tax refund you should have received, and they will give it back to you.

Refundable Tax Credits and Injured Spouse Relief

Refundable tax credits like the American Opportunity Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit can help reduce a tax debt by acting as payments towards the tax debt. Before requesting injured spouse relief, make sure you claimed any refundable tax credits you or your spouse are entitled to on your tax return.

What is the Difference Between Injured Spouse Relief and Innocent Spouse Relief?

Injured spouse relief applies to a spouse whose share of a refund was taken to offset the other spouse’s past due debts. Innocent spouse relief applies to a spouse whose tax debt is the result of the other spouse’s failure to report income or claiming improper credits/deductions. For innocent spouse relief, you will need to file IRS Form 8857.

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