If you file your taxes jointly with your spouse and your spouse has outstanding past-due federal debt, your joint refund can be affected. The outstanding debt may be back taxes, past-due child support, past-due student loans, or any other federal debt. But even if your name is on the refund, the IRS can still withhold the entire amount and apply it to the outstanding debt of your spouse. How can you protect yourself and your portion of the tax refund? Filing an Injured Spouse Claim may be your best option.
What is an Injured Spouse Claim?
If the IRS has intercepted your tax refund on a married filing jointly tax return, an injured spouse claim can help you get back your part of the tax refund. This applies only when the outstanding debt is owed by your spouse but not by you. An injured spouse claim cannot help you if the outstanding debt is jointly owned by both you and your spouse. For example, if you owe taxes on a previous year tax return that was filed “married filing jointly”, you would both be responsible for this debt and neither spouse would be able to claim an injured spouse claim.
How to Qualify For Injured Spouse Claim
In order to qualify for an injured spouse claim, you must meet all three of the following conditions:
- You are not required to pay the past-due amount. This would include a debt that your spouse incurred before you got married, or a debt that only your spouse is liable for.
- You must have reported income on the joint tax return. Some or all of the reported income must be yours from a job, self-employment, or investments. If you don’t have any income contributed, you do not have a portion of the refund.
- You made and reported payments on the joint return. Payments may include federal income tax withheld from your wages, estimated tax payments, or refundable tax credits such as the earned income tax credit or additional child tax credits.
How Do I Request an Injured Spouse Claim?
To make an Injured spouse claim, you will need to fill out and file IRS Form 8379. As soon as you realize that your tax refund is going to be intercepted you will want to submit this form. If you meet all of the qualifications, the IRS will determine how much of the refund is your portion.
If you are aware of your spouse’s outstanding debt at the time you are filing your tax return, you can submit the Form 8379 with your tax return and be ahead of the IRS. If you were not aware of the outstanding debt at the time you filed your tax return and you receive a letter in the mail from the IRS stating they are going to withhold your tax refund, you will want to submit this completed Form 8379 as soon as possible.
What To Do if There is a Discrepancy
If at any time you don’t agree with the amount of money the IRS is saying is your portion of the tax refund, contact the IRS and they can provide the information you need to better understand how the amount was determined.
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