Why am I being held liable for my spouse's (or ex-spouse's) tax debt?
While filing a "married filing jointly" ("MFJ") tax return with your spouse may result in a lower tax liability for you as a couple, collectively, there are downsides to the MFJ tax return.
When a MFJ tax return is filed, both spouses are "jointly and severally" responsible for paying any tax, penalty, and interest due related to the MFJ return, regardless of which spouse earned the income creating the tax liability. That means that the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") or the Comptroller of Maryland ("Comptroller") may take action against either - or both - spouse(s) to collect any unpaid tax related to the MFJ tax return. This joint and several liability continues even after divorce, and after the death of the other spouse.
What relief is available?
In certain situation, the IRS and the Comptroller will grant relief from joint and several liability to a spouse who is deemed an "innocent spouse." A number of factors are considered when determining whether innocent spouse relief should be granted, including, but certainly not limited to, your educational level, your knowledge of and control over the household financials, your involvement in the preparation of the tax return, any physical and mental problems at the time the return was signed, hardship, and abuse.
Please contact us if the IRS or the Comptroller has contacted you about tax due on a MFJ tax return you filed with your spouse and you want help determining whether you are eligible for innocent spouse relief.