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The Tax Practice of IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law
The Tax Practice of IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law

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innocent spouse, tax law, Chicago Tax AttorneyYour ex-husband, either accidentally or deliberately, failed to report income and the IRS caught it.  Now, you have a letter demanding that you owe the Service several thousand dollars in tax, penalties and interest, even though you had no income of your own that year and have since divorced the bum.  Is there any relief for spouses who had nothing to do with the issue that has now blown into a full-fledged tax controversy?  Perhaps.

Joint-and-Several Liability

When you file a joint tax return with your spouse, each one of you is "jointly and severally" liable for any understatement or underpayment of tax in connection with that return.  This means that each taxpayer is responsible for paying the

When you file a joint tax return with your spouse, each one of you is "jointly and severally" liable for any understatement or underpayment of tax in connection with that return.  This means that each taxpayer is responsible for paying the entire tax debt (though the IRS cannot collect more than the total amount of the liability).  Even if you had nothing to do with the preparation of the tax return, with the omission of the income or the overstated deduction, or even with the IRS audit, both you and your spouse are on the hook for the whole thing.

Innocent Spouse Relief

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