What Is Form 8857: Request for Innocent Spouse Relief?

Form 8857: Request for Innocent Spouse Relief is an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax form used by taxpayers to request relief from a tax liability involving a spouse or former spouse. Generally, couples filing a joint tax return are both, jointly, responsible for any tax obligation. When additional taxes from unreported income and erroneous deductions or credits come to light, both partners will remain liable, even if they have divorced.

Getting a divorce doesn't stop the IRS from considering that both parties retain joint and several liability for a tax obligation, even if a divorce decree states that only one party is responsible for the tax. According to the IRS, if there is a balance due, a spouse or ex-spouse generally must file Form 8857 within the time period the IRS has to collect the tax. That period is generally 10 years from the date the tax liability was assessed. In the case of a credit or refund, you generally must file your request within 3 years after the date the original return was filed or within 2 years after the date the tax was paid, whichever is later.

File the form as soon as you find out that there is a tax liability that belongs to your spouse or former spouse.

Who Can File Form 8857: Request for Innocent Spouse Relief?

The taxpayer seeking relief should file Form 8857: Request for Innocent Spouse Relief as soon as they become aware of a tax obligation for which the other spouse or ex-spouse should be solely responsible. However, the filing of Form 8857 does not guarantee the requesting taxpayer will qualify for relief. Some of the qualifications include:

  • Filing a joint return with an understatement of tax.
  • Tax due to a spouse's erroneously listed income or deductions
  • The determination that it is unfair to hold the requesting taxpayer liable for the understatement

If a taxpayer receives notification of denial of their request, they have the option to appeal the decision.

How to File Form 8857: Request for Innocent Spouse Relief

There are steps a taxpayer will need to take if they are seeking relief. First, they should file the form as soon as they find out that there is a tax liability that belongs to the spouse or former spouse. In most cases, the IRS will send notification of this tax obligation.

Since July 25, 2011, the IRS expanded the amount of time to request equitable relief. However, the taxpayer should submit Form 8857 as soon as they become aware of the discrepancy, even if they do not have the required documentation immediately available. Also, once a taxpayer requests relief through Form 8857, the spouse or ex-spouse will receive notification of the pending request. Taxpayers should further understand it could take up to six months to get a determination from the IRS after filing.

You can mail or fax your completed form to the IRS.

Download Form 8857: Request for Innocent Spouse Relief

Here is a link to a downloadable copy of Form 8857: Request for Innocent Spouse Relief.

Key Takeaways

  • Taxpayers can request relief from a tax liability involving a spouse or former spouse.
  • The taxpayer seeking relief should file Form 8857 as soon as he or she becomes aware of a tax obligation.
  • A spouse or former spouse has two years to file Form 8857.