Earlier this year, we talked about “innocent spouse relief,” which is something you can seek from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if your spouse made errors or misrepresentations on your joint tax return without your knowledge. Innocent spouse relief can sometimes protect people from having to pay significant penalties.
People often confuse this with “injured spouse relief.” However, they apply to very different situations. You can seek injured spouse relief if you lose out on all or part of a federal tax refund because of debt owed by your current or former spouse with whom you filed a joint return.
What kind of debt can minimize your tax refund?
The debt doesn’t have to be tax debt. It can be money owed on federal student loans, spousal or child support or any kind of debt for which income tax refunds can be garnished.
Further, the debt has to be your spouse’s alone. It can’t be joint debt.
Many people don’t find out about their “injured spouse” status until during divorce, when both spouses’ finances are under some scrutiny or even after that when they start filing their taxes on their own. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. You can still be happily married (or at least married) and receive injured spouse relief.
What else is required to claim injured spouse status?
To apply for this relief, which is done using IRS Form 8379, you do need to have earned some income (which can come from sources other than work, like investments) and paid some taxes through deductions or estimated tax payments.
Whether you are in the process of divorce, already divorced or still married, if you believe you qualify for injured spouse relief, it’s wise to legal guidance to help ensure that you receive the tax refund to which you’re entitled.