Innocent Spouse Relief: A Comprehensive Guide for Taxpayers in the USA

Guide for Taxpayers

Navigating the intricacies of tax law can be a daunting task, especially when you find yourself facing joint tax liability due to your spouse’s actions. Fortunately, the IRS offers a lifeline in the form of Innocent Spouse Relief. This provision allows qualifying taxpayers to be relieved of the burden of joint tax liability. In this guide, we will walk you through the steps to obtain this crucial form of tax relief in the USA.

Understanding Innocent Spouse Relief

Innocent Spouse Relief is a provision designed to protect individuals from being held accountable for tax discrepancies caused by their spouse or former spouse. To be eligible, certain criteria must be met:

  • You must have filed a joint return.
  • The tax understatement must be solely due to your spouse’s erroneous items.
  • At the time of signing the joint return, you must not have known, or had any reason to know, about the understatement.
  • It would be unjust to hold you responsible for the tax understatement.

Filing Form 8857 – Request for Innocent Spouse Relief

The first step in seeking Innocent Spouse Relief is to fill out Form 8857. This form serves as your official request and is available on the IRS website. It can be submitted electronically or through regular mail. Completing this form accurately and providing all necessary documentation is crucial.

Detailing Your Information

When completing Form 8857, ensure you provide comprehensive and accurate information. This includes:

  • Personal Information: Include your full name, Social Security number, current address, and contact details.
  • Spouse’s Information: Enter the name and Social Security number of your spouse at the time of filing the joint return.
  • Specifying Tax Years: Clearly state the tax years for which you are seeking relief.
  • Providing an Explanation: Articulate why you believe you qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief. Include any supporting evidence that reinforces your claim.

Supporting Documents and Evidence

To strengthen your case, submit relevant supporting documents alongside Form 8857. These may include:

  • Copies of past tax returns or any documents related to the disputed tax years.
  • Correspondence that demonstrates your lack of knowledge about the inaccuracies on the joint return, such as emails, letters, or other relevant documents.
  • Evidence of financial hardship if you were to be held responsible for the tax understatement.
  • Any other pertinent information that bolsters your claim.

Awaiting IRS Response

After you’ve submitted your Innocent Spouse Relief application, the IRS will review your case. This process may take some time, so it’s important to be patient. The IRS will notify you of their decision, whether it’s an approval, denial, or a request for additional information.

Appealing a Denial

If the IRS denies your request for Innocent Spouse Relief, you have the right to appeal their decision. This can be done by filing Form 12509, Innocent Spouse Request for Relief (Appeals), or by following the instructions provided in the IRS’s denial letter.

Considering Alternative Relief Options

If Innocent Spouse Relief is not granted, there are still other relief options available, such as Separation of Liability Relief or Equitable Relief. These provisions have distinct eligibility criteria, so it’s important to explore them if Innocent Spouse Relief doesn’t apply to your situation.


Innocent Spouse Relief is a critical provision that offers a lifeline to taxpayers who should not be held responsible for their spouse’s tax discrepancies. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can navigate the process effectively and increase your chances of obtaining the relief you deserve. Remember to be thorough, and honest, and provide all necessary documentation to support your claim. If you encounter any difficulties, consider seeking advice from a tax professional or legal advisor like Ideal Tax experienced in innocent spouse relief cases. With perseverance and diligence, you can successfully obtain the tax relief you rightfully deserve.