Injured Spouse Relief

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If your federal tax refund is being used to offset (pay or repay) your spouse’s past debts, you might be able to get your full refund by claiming Injured Spouse Relief.

What is Injured Spouse Relief?

If your federal tax refund is being used to offset (pay or repay) your spouse’s past debts, you might be able to get your part of the refund by claiming Injured Spouse Relief. Some examples of the debts that a refund could be used to offset are:

  • Federal and state tax debts

  • State unemployment compensation debt

  • Child or spousal support

  • Defaulted student loans

Injured Spouse Relief is discretionary. The IRS will decide whether to grant relief based on the information you provide. The IRS will look at whether:

  • You filed a joint tax return with your spouse

  • You are entitled to a tax refund

  • Some or all of your refund was or is expected to offset your spouse’s tax debt

You could be eligible for Injured Spouse Relief even if you are separated or divorced, as long as you were married at the time you filed the joint return in question.

Do not apply for Injured Spouse Relief if you are claiming Innocent Spouse Relief. To learn more about this other form of relief, read Innocent Spouse Relief.

Notice of Offset

If your refund is being offset for your spouse’s debt, you will receive notice from the IRS. Notice of Offset for state tax debt, unemployment compensation, child or spousal support, and student loans come from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Bureau of Fiscal Service.

Filing for Injured Spouse Relief

To ask for Injured Spouse Relief, complete and file Form 8379 for each tax year you are requesting relief. This simple two-page form asks you for the following:

  • Information about the joint tax return in question

  • Your and your spouse’s names and Social Security numbers

  • How tax items were allocated (divided) between you and your spouse on the joint tax return

The first part of the form is made up of “Yes or No” questions. Depending on your answer, the form will tell you to continue or stop. If you cannot continue, that means you do not qualify for this type of relief. To learn more about the form, you can review the form instructions by the IRS.

When to File

File Form 8379 as soon as you learn all or part of your tax refund was or will be used to offset your spouse’s debts. For most people, the deadline to file Form 8379 is within three years from the due date of the original return. You may have additional time to file if you experienced a serious physical or mental impairment that kept you from being able to manage your finances, or if you had to pay additional taxes after the due date of the original return. To learn more about these exceptions, you may want to speak with a tax lawyer. Use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers and legal services near you.

Processing Time

If you file Form 8379 with a joint paper return, it takes about 14 weeks to process. If you file them online, it takes about 11 weeks. If you file Form 8379 by itself after your joint return has been processed, it takes about eight weeks to process.

Appealing a Denial

If your request is denied, you can use Form 12203, Request for Appeals Review to appeal the decision. Or you may choose to prepare a brief written statement listing the items you disagree with and the reason(s) you disagree. Generally, your request for appeal must be filed within 30 days of the IRS denial. To learn more, read Requesting an Appeal on the IRS website.