What exactly is an “injured spouse?” Isn’t there something called an “innocent” spouse? Yes, there is, and they are quite different. For now, let’s define an injured spouse.
“Injured” spouse means there is one spouse who has a tax debt and the other spouse doesn’t. This situation normally comes about when, as a single (non-married) person, one or the other of the future spouses incurs a federal tax debt that remains unpaid. Then, when that individual gets married and files married filing jointly, the non-liable spouse could lose out on any subsequent refund, because when a couple files jointly, a “joint” liability is created. Unless the couple “reminds” IRS that only one of the couple has the tax debt from the unmarried period, any refund attributable to the “injured” spouse will be held to pay the other spouse’s debt.
There are two ways to avoid this problem. One is simply for a married couple to file married filing separate. The non-liable spouse files separately with his or her own taxpayer identification number (Social Security number), and their overpayment will be refunded.
The second method is to file jointly which usually is financially more advantageous for a married couple. Form 8379 is used to request relief from joint liability for a previous tax debt attributable to the liable spouse, and to secure the division of the tax overpayment so that the injured spouse receives his or her refund. The Form 8379 can be filed with the return, or later as a claim.
As an Enrolled Agent, a federal tax expert, Jeffrey Mitchell can determine when injured spouse applies and assist the taxpayer in protecting their refunds.