Will I Be Responsible for My Spouse's Taxes?

When our clients file for divorce, we are often asked, "Do I have to pay my spouse's California income taxes?" When you file a joint tax return with your spouse, you are both responsible for paying the taxes, interests and penalties.

If you are able to meet certain legal requirements, you may not be required to pay all or any of the joint tax liability. This is called "innocent joint filer relief."

Innocent Joint Filer Relief

If you meet all of the following conditions, you may qualify for relief from the assessed additional tax, penalties, and interest:

  • You filed a joint tax return.
  • The additional tax was caused by your spouse's error.
  • When you signed the joint tax return, you had no knowledge of the items which resulted in the additional tax.
  • Considering the circumstances, it would be unfair to hold you responsible for the tax liability.
  • You submit a completed FTB 705 Request for Innocent Joint Filer Relief within two years of the date that involuntary collection activities were commenced against you.

What is separate allocation of liability?

Under this form of relief, the Franchise Tax Board determines which spouse is liable for the assessed additional taxes, penalties, and interest.

If you are able to satisfy all of the aforementioned requirements, the additional tax will be assessed to the liable spouse as if you filed separate tax returns. You must also be able to show that:

  • You were divorced or lived apart from your spouse for 12 months before requesting relief.
  • The additional tax assessed was attributed in part or in full to your spouse.

If you filed a joint tax return and you don't qualify for innocent joint filer relief, you still may qualify for equitable relief if you meet the conditions. For further information, reach out to our Los Angeles divorce attorneys at Claery & Hammond, LLP!