Injured Spouse Rule

This rule can prevent the IRS from seizing your share of a joint refund to cover a debt owed by your spouse.

If you have an unpaid tax bill from prior years, the IRS can grab your refund for the current year as a payment on that liability. They figure they shouldn’t be sending you a refund when you owe them money. And there are other situations where the IRS can grab your refund. Your refund can be applied against unpaid child support, spousal support and student loans.

If you’re married, you may have a refund on a joint return. It’s likely that the IRS will try to seize that refund if either spouse has an unpaid liability as described above. But if only one spouse owes the liability, the other spouse is entitled to his or her share of the refund. If the IRS has applied your share of a refund against a liability owed by your spouse, you’re an injured spouse entitled to relief. You can also use the injured spouse rule to prevent the IRS from grabbing your refund in the first place.

What to Do

If the IRS has applied your refund against your spouse’s liability, or you’re concerned that the IRS may do so, obtain Form 8379, Injured Spouse Claim and Allocation. The form requests identifying information for you and your spouse, and information needed to determine how much of the tax — and refund — is attributable to each spouse. The IRS makes the actual calculation that divides the refund between you and your spouse.

If you’re an injured spouse for a return that’s already been filed, you should file this form with the IRS Service Center for the place where you lived when you filed that return. If you’re trying to prevent the IRS from seizing a refund on a return you haven’t yet filed, you should attach Form 8379 when you file the return.

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