The IRS is saying that my ex-husband and I have joint and several liability for an old tax return. What does that mean?

When you were married, you may have opted to file joint tax returns with your former spouse. Later, the IRS may contact you if there are issues with the return due to unpaid taxes, underpaid taxes, improper deductions or credit, underreporting of income, or some other issue with the return. When this happens, both spouses are said to be jointly and severally liable for the debt.

Facts About Joint and Several Liability for Tax Debt

What does joint and several liability for tax debt mean for a married couple or a formerly married couple? The following are five facts that provide a valuable explanation:

  1. If you filed the tax return in question jointly, both of you are jointly and severally liable for the tax, as well as any additions to the tax, interest, or penalties that arise from the joint return.
  2. Even if you later divorce, joint and several liability remains.
  3. Joint and several liability means that each spouse is liable for the entire amount due to the IRS.
  4. Joint and several liability exists even if one spouse earned all the income or only one spouse claimed the improper deductions or credits leading to the unpaid tax debt.
  5. Even if a divorce decree states that a former spouse is responsible for any tax debt from previously filed joint returns, joint and several liability remains.

The good news, however, is that you may be entitled to relief from the liability if you are an innocent spouse, if you can obtain a Separation of Liability Relief, or if you can obtain Equitable Relief. We are here to help you do just that. To learn more about tax problems and potential solutions, we encourage you to check out our free guide, The Ultimate Survival Guide for IRS Problems, today.