What Is Form 8379: Injured Spouse Allocation? Definition

What Is IRS Form 8379: Injured Spouse Allocation?

The "injured" spouse on a jointly filed tax return can file Form 8379 to regain their share of a joint refund that was seized to pay a past-due obligation of the other spouse. These obligations might include past-due federal tax, state tax, child support, or federal non-tax debt (such as a student loan). The term "injured" refers to the negatively impacted spouse, who does not owe the debt.

Key Takeaways

  • IRS Form 8379 is a tax form that can be filed to reclaim part of a tax refund that has been used to pay for an overdue debt.
  • If a married couple files a joint tax return and the refund is applied to one spouse's past-due debts, the "injured" spouse can file Form 8379 to get their share of the refund.
  • An injured spouse form can be filed with a joint tax return, amended joint tax return, or afterward by itself.
  • If you live in a community property state, the rules may differ. The IRS uses laws in these states to determine if—and how much—an injured spouse is entitled to.
  • It takes 8 to 14 weeks for the IRS to process an injured spouse allocation.

Who Can File Form 8379: Injured Spouse Allocation?

Typically, spouses are jointly responsible for a tax obligation so an injured spouse should file Form 8379 when they become aware that all or part of a share of a refund was, or is expected to be, applied against their spouse's legally enforceable past-due obligations.

If a spouse has fallen behind on child support payments, alimony, federal or state taxes, federal non-tax debt such as student loans, or certain unemployment compensation debt, then the Department of Treasury is authorized to take a taxpayer's refund and apply it toward the past-due debt. By filling out Form 8379, the injured spouse is requesting that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) release their share of a joint tax refund.

To be eligible to file Form 8370 an injured spouse must have reported income included in the joint return in which a refund was garnished.

How to File Form 8379: Injured Spouse Allocation

Form 8379 can be filed with a joint tax return, amended joint tax return (Form 1040-X), or it can be filed afterward by itself. An injured spouse form is only filed with Form 1040-X: Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return if a spouse is amending an original return to claim a joint refund.

An injured spouse form must be filed for each year the taxpayer wants their portion of any offset refunded. If a couple files their return knowing any refund might be seized, the injured spouse can file the form with the joint tax return or file separately.

Once you file a Form 8379, the IRS will review it to determine whether you are eligible for injured spouse relief and, if so, how much. It takes the IRS about 14 weeks to process an injured spouse form if you file a paper version with a joint return and 11 weeks if you file it electronically.

Form 8379

All pages of Form 8379 are available on the IRS website.

Special Considerations When Filing Form 8379: Injured Spouse Allocation

If you live in a community property state different rules may apply. In general, these states take the view that debts and assets acquired during a marriage are jointly owned, though there are exceptions. The rules vary in each state. The IRS uses each state's rules to determine the amount, if any, refundable to the injured spouse. Community property states include Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Injured spouse relief is not the same as innocent spouse relief. This is a separate form that can be filed if one spouse has been made responsible for back taxes, interest, or penalties from improperly reported tax filings.

Other Relevant Forms

"Injured" spouse relief should not be confused with "innocent" spouse relief. A person files for "innocent" spouse relief when they have been made responsible for back taxes, interest, and penalties resulting from improperly reported taxes on a joint return. If the "innocent" spouse had no knowledge of the improper items leading to the problematic filing, Form 8857: Request for Innocent Spouse Relief can be submitted to claim relief. Several conditions must be met:

  • The understated tax was reported on a joint return.
  • The understated tax stems from under-reported income or improperly applied deductions, credits, or cost basis.
  • The spouse can demonstrate they signed the joint return without knowing the understated tax existed.

Finally, the IRS must determine it would be unfair to hold the spouse responsible.

Who Does the Term Injured Spouse Apply to on IRS Form 8379?

The "injured spouse" on Form 8379 refers to a spouse who has been affected by the application of a joint tax refund to offset their spouse's debts. Because they have been financially harmed ("injured") by this use of the refund, that spouse is able to reclaim their share of the refund from the IRS.

When Does the IRS Begin Processing Injured Spouse Forms?

It can take up to 14 weeks for the IRS to process an injured spouse allocation form, although processing is faster if the form is submitted electronically. If Form 8379 is filed separately from a joint tax return, it will take around 8 weeks.

Can I File an IRS Injured Spouse Form Because of a Spouse’s Student Loan Debt?

In most cases, an injured spouse can file Form 8379 to claim their share of a tax refund before it is used to offset their spouse's debts. However, rules are different in community property states, where the tax refund may be considered shared marital property. In those cases, the IRS will divide the return according to the state community property law.

Where Do I Send My Tax Form 8379?

Generally speaking, Form 8379 should be filed with the IRS Service Center for the area where you live. However, if you have already filed your tax return for the year in question, you should send Form 8379 to the same Service Center you filed your tax return, even if you now live somewhere else.

Can I File Form 8379 Electronically?

Yes, and the IRS will process your injured spouse allocation faster if it is sent online. Electronic submissions take about eleven weeks to process, compared to fourteen weeks for paper filings.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Tax Refund With an Injured Spouse Claim?

If an injured spouse files Form 8379 along with their joint tax return, it will take between 11 and 14 weeks to receive their share of the tax return. Of course, this is contingent upon the IRS determination that the injured spouse is qualified for a share of the return.

How Do You Check Injured Spouse Refund Status?

If an injured spouse files Form 8379 and does not hear back, they can call the Bureau of Financial Services' TOP Center at 800-304-3107.

Can the IRS Deny an Injured Spouse Claim?

Yes, the IRS may determine that someone filing Form 8379 is ineligible for an injured spouse allocation, or that they are not entitled to as much as they believe. When the IRS receives a claim, they will calculate the injured spouse's share of the tax return, based on state laws and the circumstances surrounding each case.

Article Sources
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  1. Internal Revenue Service. "Topic No. 203 Reduced Refund." Accessed Jan. 14, 2022.

  2. Internal Revenue Service. "Instructions for Form 8379 (11/2021)." Accessed Jan. 14, 2022.

  3. Internal Revenue Service. "Form 8379." Accessed Jan. 14, 2022.

  4. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 971 (10/2014), Innocent Spouse Relief." Accessed Jan. 14, 2022.

  5. Internal Revenue Service. "Innocent Spouse Relief." Accessed Jan. 14, 2022.

  6. Internal Revenue Service. "Frequently Asked Questions." Accessed Jan. 14, 2022.

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