IRS Procedure Gives Consideration to Spousal Abuse

The IRS released a proposed revenue procedure (Notice 2012-8) that would loosen up some of the rules related to Innocent Spouse relief under Revenue Code section 6015(f).

Normally if a married couple files a return jointly then they are both equally liable (jointly and severally) for any outstanding balance on that tax year. However, if one spouse can show that he/she had no knowledge and had no reason to know that the other spouse was underreporting income or that the funds intended for payment of the tax were taken by the other spouse, then the IRS may impart tax relief to the innocent spouse.

One of the most significant changes has to do with the criteria that the IRS considers when reviewing an Innocent Spouse case. The IRS will now take into consideration all the facts and circumstances in Innocent Spouse cases, with no one factor or majority of factors necessarily controlling their determination. Also, some factors may weigh against the requesting spouse and some factors may weigh in his/her favor. But if the requesting spouse can prove marital abuse or lack of financial control, then it may, under the proposed procedures, mitigate those otherwise negative factors.

In layman’s terms:

Somebody in an abusive relationship does not need tax problems heaped on top of everything else going on in their life. If the requesting spouse was abused or prevented from participating in family finances, then Innocent Spouse relief may still be granted even if the requesting spouse had actual knowledge that there were problems with the tax return or that the taxes were going to go unpaid.

Interestingly, because the new revenue procedure expands equitable relief available to innocent spouses, it will be applied by the IRS immediately even before it is finalized.