Maxine Aaronson, Attorney at Law
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Tax Newsletter

  • Structured Settlement Considerations
    There are numerous legal situations in which a person may receive a large sum of money through a court award or settlement. Often arising as compensation for personal injuries or other acts, most such payouts are reduced due to some or... Read more.
  • Employer Benefits Associated With Leased Employees
    Over the past several decades it has become increasingly expensive to hire and maintain employees. A large part of the expense relates to government programs and reporting requirements, but accounting costs related to employees have... Read more.
  • Recent Changes in Federal Estate Taxes
    Much to the relief of many, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (“2012 Tax Act”) was enacted in the beginning of 2013, making permanent many of the tax benefits that were scheduled to expire at the end of 2012. The... Read more.
  • The Annual Exclusion and Gift Taxes
    A gift tax is a tax on the privilege of making gifts to others while the taxpayer is still living. The gift tax supplements the estate tax, which taxes gifts made upon death. The gift tax was created to frustrate the attempts of those... Read more.
Tax News Links

Obtaining Tax Relief Through the Innocent Spouse Doctrine

Many married couples file joint tax returns to take advantage of certain benefits offered by this filing status. This may result in the unfortunate and unintended consequence of one spouse being held responsible for the underreporting of income by the other spouse. Even when there is a divorce decree stating that one spouse will be solely responsible for any amounts due on prior tax returns, the IRS may withhold a tax refund of the other spouse to satisfy the former spouse’s tax obligation.

When a married couple files a joint tax return and penalties arise as a result of an underreporting of taxable income, the IRS will relieve one spouse from liability if that spouse can prove that he or she is “innocent” of any wrongdoing. In order for the an individual to obtain relief as an “innocent spouse,” the following criteria must be met:

  • The return filed must be a joint return, or, if the return was filed while living in a community property state, the return filed may be a “married filing separately” return
  • At the time the return was filed, the individual believed the correct amount of tax was, or would be, paid
  • The individual’s spouse failed to report or underreported his or her income
  • The individual did not have knowledge of the unreported income or erroneous items at the time the return was filed
  • It would be unfair to hold the individual liable for the tax deficiency
  • The individual applies for relief no later than two years after the IRS’s first attempt to collect the deficiency

If an individual meets the criteria for innocent spouse relief, the individual will be relieved of responsibility for the tax due on the return or any penalties or interest. Depending on the facts and circumstances, the innocent spouse may be eligible for relief of all taxes due on the return, including penalties and interest, or only partial relief.