Filing taxes jointly is not always beneficial. Sometimes, a spouse intentionally understates their taxes on their return without the knowledge of the other spouse, who simply signs the return without knowing its contents. When it leads to back taxes, both the spouses are held responsible for it. Even if the married couple divorces later, the liability of the tax debt at the time of joint filing falls on both spouses.
The spouse who had no knowledge about the understatement, which led to a tax debt can claim innocence and get relief from paying the liability under Innocent Spouse Relief. The IRS considers many factors when deciding whether a spouse can be allowed freedom from a tax debt. It is not an easy decision because after qualifying for Innocent Spouse, all responsibility falls on the guilty spouse.
When a person signs a joint tax return, they are taking shared responsibility for the accuracy of the return. But there are many factors, such as the threat of physical violence that can lead a spouse to sign a tax return without knowing the particulars. Under Innocent Spouse, the IRS considers all of these factors.
Most taxpayers who apply for Innocent Spouse find themselves under tax debt when they receive notice from the IRS. When they become aware of tax debt, they should enlist the help of tax professionals for the best resolution of the problem.