The Requirements for Traditional Innocent Spouse Relief
Traditional innocent spouse relief is one of three types of defenses available to taxpayers when the IRS is attempting to collect tax that is attributable to a return filed jointly with your spouse or former spouse. The IRS can collect from either spouse for tax assessed on a joint return, but innocent spouse defenses allow you to avoid liability for these items, if certain requirements are met.

The Conditions for Innocent Spouse Relief

All four of the following conditions must be met in order for you to qualify for traditional innocent spouse relief:

What’s the Difference Between an Innocent Spouse and an Injured Spouse?
An innocent spouse defense is used to get relief from the typical joint and several liability that exists for joint tax returns. If you filed a joint return, and your spouse erroneously understated the amount of tax owed, you can attempt to claim innocent spouse relief. If you are successful, the IRS will not attempt to collect the understated tax from you.

An injured spouse is a spouse whose portion of a joint tax refund has been offset due to the other spouse’s financial obligations. An injured spouse can use form 8379 to attempt to reclaim their portion of a refund, but only if they are not responsible for the spouse’s financial obligation that caused the offset, and if the injured spouse either paid federal tax during the year or is due a refundable tax credit.

Why Tax Refunds Are Offset

Innocent Spouse Relief Options: Separation of Liability
Separation of liability is an innocent spouse defense that allocates a tax deficiency between two spouses in proportion to each spouse’s contribution to the deficiency. While the IRS can generally collect the entire tax debt for a joint return from either spouse, separation of liability—along with the other innocent spouse relief options—prevents the IRS from collecting tax from one spouse when the erroneous item on the return is attributable to the other spouse.

The Conditions for Separation of Liability Relief

In order to qualify for separation of liability, you must have filed a joint return and meet one of the following conditions:

Which Court Should You Use For Your Tax Dispute
There are actually four different courts that can be used for tax litigation. The United States Tax Court is the most commonly used option, but other courts may have advantages in certain situations.

The four courts with jurisdiction to hear tax controversy cases are:

  • Tax Court

What To Do When You Receive an IRS Notice
Receiving a notice from the IRS is not something most people look forward to. You may be confused as to what the notice is saying, and afraid of the possible consequences, such as owing substantial back taxes, interest, and penalties.

However, there are two important things to know about most IRS notices:

  1. You may have the right to challenge or appeal the action the IRS is taking, and

How to Determine Residency for California State Income Tax Purposes
The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) can come after snowbirds and other people who spend time in California, but maintain a tax residence in other states. For California income tax purposes, nonresidents are only taxed on income earned from California sources. Residents, on the other hand, are taxed on all of their income, even if it was earned outside of California, and even if it was earned outside of the country.

The difference between having a status as a California tax resident or nonresident can therefore amount to tens of thousands of dollars in potential tax liability, and tens of thousands of dollars in additional revenue to The Golden State. The general definition of a resident is an individual who is present in California for other than a transitory or temporary purpose, or someone who is domiciled in California, but it located outside of California other than for a transitory or temporary purpose.

The term “domicile” means the place where you voluntarily establish yourself and family, not merely for a special or limited purpose, but with a present intention of making it your true, fixed, permanent home and principal establishment. Determining whether a visit is temporary or transitory depends on the purpose and length of the visit.

Will the IRS Ever Return Seized Property?
The IRS is generally required to send you a notice before levying or seizing your property. You may be able to prevent a levy by timely requesting a Collection Due Process (CDP) hearing, and negotiating a payment plan or otherwise contesting the levy. You have 30 days from the date of the notice to request a CDP hearing.

There are situations where the IRS is not required to send you a pre-levy notice, and can take your property without giving you a chance to contest the levy. State tax refunds can be taken without notice, and the IRS can levy without notice if they believe that collection of the tax is in jeopardy.

There are also other situations where you may not get the chance to contest the levy until after your property has been seized. The IRS sends notices to your last known address, and you may never receive these notices if the IRS does not have your current address. You may also simply be unaware of your CDP rights or the 30-day deadline, and miss your chance to request a CDP hearing. Payroll taxes are also subject to different rules.