Though filing “married filing jointly” compare to “married filing separately” may bring a tax benefit, it also means you are on the hook for any additional assessed tax for that specific tax year that is triggered by your spouse or remains unpaid.
While you may be jointly and severally liable for this tax, the IRS allows a taxpayer to request relief from joint and several liability under three different scenarios:
1) Innocent Spouse Relief – For this relief, you must claim for relief within 2 years from the date the IRS begins collection on the tax. The main element for this scenario is knowledge. You must show that you did not know or had no reason to know of the understated tax. (The burden of proof is on you, the taxpayer.)
2) Separation of Liability – For this relief, the IRS looks at both knowledge and your marital status. You must be no longer married, or separate for at least 12 months from your former spouse. As for knowledge, you cannot possess actual knowledge of the understated tax. (The burden of proof is on the government.) Like innocent spouse relief, you must request for relief within 2 years from the date the IRS beings collection action on the tax.
3) Equitable Relief – You can file a claim for this relief any time during the duration of the collection statute and are not subject to the 2 year rule. The IRS looks at several factors for this but primarily weighs 1) marital status, 2) knowledge and 3) economic hardship.
By applying for one of these three types of relief, you may be granted relief from the tax triggered by your current or former spouse.