WASHINGTON - The Internal Revenue Service is making it easier for some “innocent spouses’’ to escape responsibility for the tax debt of their husbands or wives.
Under the law, taxpayers who file joint returns are generally liable for the tax debts of their partners. However, spouses may qualify for relief if they did not know their partners were cheating on their taxes, or didn’t participate in the scams. In some cases, spouses can escape responsibility if they can prove they were coerced into signing joint tax returns.
The IRS has required innocent spouses to apply for relief within two years of the agency starting a collection action. Yesterday, the IRS eliminated the two-year time limit for some applications after lawmakers and advocates complained that many abused or divorced spouses may not become aware of IRS collection efforts for years.
To qualify for relief, taxpayers must apply for an “innocent spouse’’ designation. People who had their applications denied in the past because of the time limit can reapply, the agency said.