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Abuse and the innocent spouse rule: what types qualify?

Marriage should not be a blank check to engage in bad behavior. In the context of taxpayers who are married filing jointly, that means

It's been nearly a year now since the IRS issued a notice intend to make innocent spouse relief more widely available. Is it having that effect?

Indications are that the rule change is indeed leading to an increase in applications for innocent spouse relief. Indeed, the rule may have broadened the protections for spouses so significantly that someone who was denied this relief before may want to consider trying again.

This is particularly true in cases where someone seeking innocent spouse relief can show substantial evidence of abuse by the other spouse. The IRS now recognizes that there are types of abuse besides physical abuse. Abuse can also take physical or emotional forms.

For example, one spouse may so dominate the couple's financial life that the other spouse has no input into major decisions. Or a spouse may have problems with drug or alcohol abuse; this, too, may be grounds for application of the innocent spouse rule.

Even extended absence from the home by one spouse may be sufficient for the other spouse to qualify under the rule. The same goes for the creation of separate bank accounts that the other spouse has not access to.

Physical abuse is of course the most obvious form of abuse. Police reports are a basic source for documenting this. There are other ways as well, such as obtaining notarized statements from primary care doctors, clergy or other professionals.

Source: "IRS Expands Availability of Innocent Spouse Relief," Stephen J. Dunn, 12-15-12

Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our page on tax representation for innocent spouses.

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