Injured Spouse Relief

This page describes the options a spouse has when his or her refund got caught up in the claims against his or her spouse for child support, back taxes, or other debts. It comes up primarily among couples who have divorced recently.

If you filed a joint tax return with your spouse, and if Uncle Sam withheld a portion of your refund to cover the debts owed by your spouse, you may be entitled to “injured spouse relief.” Here’s what it takes:

  • You must have filed a joint tax return or a married filing separately return in a community property state.
  • The IRS must have seized all or part of your refund to cover your spouse’s debt, including child support, back taxes, non-tax federal debt, such as a student loan, or state income tax.
  • You must have received taxable income for the year in question, from sources such as wages, taxable interest, taxable dividends, pension or retirement plan distributions, or any other income source from which the payor withheld taxes, or you must have made estimated tax payments during the year.
  • You must not have any liability for the debt of your spouse for which the refund was seized.

If you satisfy all these tests, you probably would qualify for “injured spouse relief” and be able to get some of that refund back. The way to find out for sure is to request and file IRS Form 8379.

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