IRS Form 8857: How Do I Request Innocent Spouse Relief?

IRS Form 8857: How Do I Request Innocent Spouse Relief?

IRS taxes are a complex matter—especially when you are filing your tax return with a spouse. While the IRS typically holds both spouses liable for tax debt, there are sometimes situations that leave one spouse feeling unfairly burdened by their partner’s poorly managed finances or back taxes.

When this happens, the IRS offers the opportunity to apply for relief through two forms: Form 8857 for Innocent Spouse Relief and Form 8379 for Injured Spouse Relief.

Below, we’ll get into what IRS Form 8857 is, who is eligible to file it, and what to expect when requesting Innocent Spouse Relief from the IRS.

About IRS Form 8857

IRS Form 8857 is officially known as a Request for Innocent Spouse Relief.

This form helps a spouse whose partner has mismanaged their income and/or taxes by offering relief from penalties, interest, or tax debt that’s unjustly assigned to them.

Innocent Spouse Relief Eligibility

Any person who wishes to file IRS Form 8857 needs to meet the following criteria:

  • You filed their taxes jointly with a spouse.
  • You can prove that their spouse submitted erroneous claims or defrauded the IRS without their knowledge.
  • You can show that they could not have known about a spouse’s tax errors or fraud.
  • You must submit Form 8857 within two years of the IRS initiating collection efforts.

You will not qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief if back taxes you owe the IRS are for:

  • Your income or your business’s income
  • TFR penalties (Trust Fund Recovery)
  • Household employment
  • Shared responsibility payments

When to File Form 8857 for Innocent Spouse Relief or Form 8379 for Injured Spouse Relief

There are two types of tax relief you may be eligible for: Innocent Spouse Relief (Form 8857) or Injured Tax Relief (Form 8379). While Innocent Spouse Relief allows you to claim relief on taxes owed because of your spouse’s errors or fraud, Injured Spouse Relief lets you cover your spouse’s tax debt with money from your tax refund.

Here’s when to file each:

Form 8857 (Innocent Spouse Relief)

File this form as soon as you become aware of any tax liability issues arising from your joint return.

Remember, you have a two-year window from the time the IRS initiates collection activities to submit your request.

Form 8379 (Injured Spouse Relief)

This form is for spouses who anticipate the offset of their share of a joint tax refund due to their partner’s debts, such as child support or federal student loans.

You should file Form 8379 with your joint tax return or as soon as you expect a refund offset.

How to File Form 8857

Filing IRS Form 8857 is a multi-step process:

  1. Gather Documents: Collect all relevant documents, such as tax returns, financial records, and evidence of your spouse’s errors or fraud.
  2. Complete Form 8857: Fill out the form carefully, providing accurate information about you and your spouse’s tax debt situation. Be thorough in explaining why you should qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief.
  3. Submit the Form: Mail your completed Form 8857 to the IRS address provided in the instructions. Make sure to keep a copy for your records.
  4. Await IRS Review: The IRS will review your request and notify you of their decision.

Does My Spouse Also Have to File IRS Form 8857 for Me to Get Innocent Spouse Relief?

No, only the spouse requesting relief needs to file Form 8857.

That said, the IRS may notify the other spouse and offer them the opportunity to participate in the relief decision process.

What Are the Next Steps After Requesting Innocent Spouse Relief from the IRS?

Once your 8857 form has been submitted, you’ll need to wait for the IRS to complete their review.

Depending on when you submit the request, this can take anywhere from several weeks to several months. During this time, be ready to provide any additional information or documentation that the IRS requests to make a decision.

How Long Does It Take the IRS to Review an 8857 Request?

Processing time can vary. After the IRS completes its review, it can take additional time to process your IRS Form 8857 relief request.

Expect it to take anywhere from up to six months or even a year for Innocent Spouse Relief to be approved.

Can I Appeal If the IRS Denies My 8857 Form Request?

Yes, if the IRS denies your request for Innocent Spouse Relief you do have the opportunity to appeal. Your notice of denial will include instructions on how to initiate the appeal process. Note that you have 30 days to appeal from when you receive your notice.

Your spouse can also appeal any IRS decision for spouse relief.

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