The holidays are officially over and done. I’ve taken down the Christmas decorations and now, as promised, it’s time to get back to work on Secrets of a Kick Ass Tax Woman, a series of posts I began just before the holidays in support of a book which should be out in a couple of months. Because a battle for so-called “innocent spouse relief” is at the heart of the story. I thought I’d fill readers in on just exactly what it was.
First, since it’s been a while, let’s recap previous Secrets posts .
- Fresh from the Trash Bin – the tax man tells you your tit’s in the ringer but you have no idea why. You’ve been such a good wife so WTF!!!
- Five Deadly Sins in the Eyes of the Taxman – why you shouldn’t have been such a good wife in the first place but, alas, now it’s too late.
- Three Easy Pieces – what you can do about it other than roll over and play dead. (the thing you’d like to do)
For those of you wondering what the heck I’m talking about, if you can’t answer the following questions, then you really do need to start at the beginning of the series: Fresh from the Trash Bin. Reading tax jargon without some background has blinded many an innocent soul.
Yee Olde Innocent Spouse Quiz:
- If you’re divorced, living in a trailer park, making minimum
wage, zero bank account and four children to feed, will the tax man still come after you for a debt your ex-husband incurred?
- Can you request innocent spouse relief from the taxman if you filed income tax returns separately from your spouse?
- What is the one thing many people vow while getting married that is a sin in the eyes of the taxman?
The answers are – 1.) You betcha! 2.) No and 3.) Vowing to “obey” your spouse.
Okay, to those of you who feel comfortable enough to go on, let’s pretend your tit’s in the proverbial wringer and there’s seemingly no way out – now what do you do? Well, here’s what I did:
1.) Divorced my husband hoping that the tax man would clear me.
This does not work, friends. But it will make you feel better and, if you are like I was, a stay-at-home mom who had to go back to work at minimum wage jobs, it will make you look more pathetic.
2.) Begged for mercy from the taxman.
Ha! If you’re lucky, your case will be assigned to a kind-hearted human being willing to help you file for innocent spouse relief (I had just such a person when dealing with the IRS, however I was far, far less fortunate with the state). Keep in mind, tax collectors receive their bonuses and promotions based on how much money they bring in and not on their compassionate treatment of taxpayers.
3.) Hired a tax attorney.
There are a couple of things about lawyers you need to know before you go to that expense. If you think a tax attorney will plead for complete relief from an unfair tax burden, forget it. They will urge you to work out a settlement. They will tell you it’s not wise to fight because, you see, in the court of tax law you are guilty and must prove your innocence. But they will help you to understand the requirements for innocent spouse. Trust me, unless you’re a lawyer, reading provisions from the tax code will drive you insane.
I’m sure you’re wondering what the actual process for requesting innocent spouse relief is. Here goes:
- First you complete a form (8857) that lists your assets, your income, and debts.
- Next you get three of your long time neighbors to write letters attesting to your meager and miserable lifestyle during the year in question. (Good luck to you on that one. Most people are very squeamish about getting involved with the tax man in any way, shape or manner)
- Last you provide proof – as much as you can get ahold of – that your spouse hid information about finances from you. I had twenty-six letters from my divorce attorney. I called them “The Exhibits A-Z.”
Finally bundle up the whole shebang and sent it to the taxman. Then wait for their response.
If the answer comes thusly:
It is clear that appellant has failed to meet her burden of overcoming rebuttable correctness of respondent’s determination.
This is taxman speak for “your appeal has been rejected.”
Do not despair, as I did, it need not be the end.
Next – The court of last resort…