The "innocent spouse" rule permits taxpayers (in certain circumstances) to get off the hook for the tax debts of their spouse, even if they signed a joint return.
In 2011 the IRS announced that it would eliminate the two-year time limit for innocent spouses to seek relief. Taxpayers with cases currently in suspense with the IRS will be automatically afforded the new rule. In the past, the innocent spouse needed to seek relief within 2 years of the IRS colleciton notice being sent. This was a real problem where the innocent spousedid not know about the collection notice. This change is a significant gain for innocent spouses. However, the innocent spouse must still file for relief within the IRS statute of limitations for collections.
In determining whether a taxpayer is an "innocent spouse" the court will consider all the circumstances, including: the parties marriage status, economic status, abuse, health and whether the innocent spouse knew (or should have known) about the problems.
To find out more about whether you may be an "innocent spouse", you can check out IRS Publication 971, Innocent Spouse Relief. To request innocent spouse relieft, the taxpayer should speak with a professional about filing a Form 8857, "Request for Innocent Spouse Relief" with the IRS. However, gaining innocent spouse status is not easy. The IRS denies most applications. Approximately 50,000 innocent spouse relief requests are received every year by the IRS.