Before filing Form 8379, ask yourself whether you are indeed an injured spouse. The IRS has an online quiz to help. Here are the general requirements:
- An injured spouse must have paid federal income tax on wages or on an Earned Income Credit.
- An injured spouse files income taxes jointly as part of a married couple. This includes same-sex marriages, which are recognized by the IRS if the marriage was performed in a state or foreign jurisdiction where gay marriage is legally binding — even if the couple doesn't currently live in one of the more than 30 states that recognize gay marriage [source: CNN].
- The IRS advises same-sex married couples to use the married filing jointly or separately statuses, and the same rules apply as for any other couples filing jointly. If you and your spouse didn't live together for the past six months of the year, either of you may file under head of household status [source: IRS]. Couples in registered domestic partnerships or civil unions are not considered legally married but can also file as head of household [source: IRS].
- An injured spouse ismarried to someone with past-due federal or state debt. This spouse should have nothing to do with the original debt. If both spouses went into this debt together or after the two were married, neither spouse is injured.
- An injured spouse hasa tax overpayment that could be applied against the other spouse's past-due amount.
An injured spouse is not someone who has been lied to or misinformed about debt incurred within the marriage. Individuals in that situation might qualify for innocent spouse relief. An innocent spouse is someone who shouldn't be held responsible for items filed on a joint tax return that they did not know about.
For example, during the years that Jamie and Robin are married, Jamie handles all of the finances. Robin assumes Jamie is diligently paying his income taxes; she doesn't know he's hiding or underreporting his own income. Over the years, problems cause Jamie and Robin to separate, and Robin discovers she's jointly liable for paying a tax bill Jamie had been ignoring. In this scenario, Robin would be considered an innocent spouse.