Video: How to Protect Your Spouse and Loved One’s From Your Restitution and Fines: the Innocent Spouse Act

When I was arrested in 2016, the first thing that I wondered was why?

The second thing that came to my mind, and continued not only that day, but until I was release from my 60 month sentence after 21 months was, how will this affect my family? What will my charges to do my wife? Will she be liable for any restitution or fines that I might have incurred due to my charge? I had no one to ask and was consumed by the fear of her losing everything because of my stupidity and selfishness.

It took until I came home in 2020 to learn about the innocent spouse form. This is an IRS form officially known as “Form 8857: Request for Innocent Spouse Relief.” It is used by individuals who believe they qualify for relief from certain tax liabilities incurred by their current or former spouse, particularly when that spouse is involved in criminal matters. When married taxpayers file joint tax returns, they both become jointly and individually responsible for the taxes owed, as well as any penalties and interest, but many spouses are unaware that they may be on the hook, financially, for tax penalties associated with their husband or wife’s case.

However, in some situations, one spouse may not have been aware of or may not be responsible for errors, omissions, or fraudulent activities related to the tax return. In such cases, the innocent spouse may seek relief from the tax liabilities associated with the joint return through the Innocent Spouse Relief program.

Here’s how the innocent spouse form is used:

  1. Eligibility Determination:To use Form 8857, the individual must meet certain criteria to qualify for innocent spouse relief. The IRS considers factors such as knowledge of the tax return issues, the degree of involvement in the financial matters, and whether it would be unfair to hold the innocent spouse responsible for the tax liabilities.
  2. Filing the Form:The innocent spouse must complete and submit Form 8857 to the IRS to request relief from the joint tax liability. The form requires the individual to provide detailed information about the tax years in question, the specific issues related to the tax return, and the reasons for seeking innocent spouse relief.
  3. Supporting Documentation:Along with the form, the innocent spouse should provide any supporting documentation that helps establish their case for relief. This may include financial records, communication records, or any evidence that demonstrates their lack of knowledge or involvement in the specified tax matters.
  4. IRS Review and Decision: After receiving Form 8857 and supporting documents, the IRS will review the request for innocent spouse relief. They will consider the information provided, evaluate the eligibility criteria, and make a determination on whether to grant the relief or not.
  5. Types of Relief:There are three types of innocent spouse relief that can be sought through Form 8857: Innocent Spouse Relief, Separation of Liability Relief, and Equitable Relief. Each type of relief has specific criteria and requirements that the innocent spouse must meet.

It’s important to note that seeking innocent spouse relief can be a complex process, and the IRS may request additional information or documentation during the review. If the request is denied, the innocent spouse has the option to appeal the decision within a certain timeframe.

If you believe you may qualify for innocent spouse relief, it is advisable to seek the assistance of a white collar advisor, tax professional or a tax attorney who can guide you through the process and help present your case effectively to the IRS.


Sam Mangel


Member: American Bar Association