Innocent Spouse Relief – What is Injured Spouse Relief?

Innocent Spouse versus Injured Spouse

What is the Difference between Innocent and Injured Spouse

We spoke a bit in an earlier blog post about innocent spouse relief. Injured spouse relief is a different kind of relief. Often confused, these two similar sounding relief provisions have two separate purposes. Let me explain.

Difference Between Innocent Spouse and Injured Spouse?

Innocent spouse relief is a program to seek relief from joint liability for you and your spouse’s personal income taxes.

Injured spouse relief, on the other hand, is a program to seek relief from application of a joint refund to a past-due obligation of the other spouse. So, if your joint refund is seized to pay your spouse’s unpaid taxes from when he or she was single then you would request injured spouse relief and not innocent spouse relief.

Here are some examples of past-due obligations of your spouse which may give rise to your joint refund being seized:

  • Federal tax
  • State income tax
  • State unemployment compensation
  • Child support
  • Spousal support
  • Federal nontax debt (such as a student loan)

A Quick Example to Explain the Difference

Innocent Spouse Relief – your spouse omits $100k in income on your joint return

Injured Spouse – your joint refund is taken to pay for your spouse’s $100k tax debt from when he was unmarried.

How to Request Injured Spouse Relief

You request injured spouse relief using IRS Form 8379. Link here: Form 8379, Injured Spouse

Relief can be requested either after the refund is taken or before the return is filed using Form 8379. The form can be a bit complicated, so we always suggest to those requesting injured spouse relief to get a tax preparer to assist them. If you do want to do it yourself, you just need to answer a series of questions and then prepare an allocation to show which portion of the refund should not be applied to your spouse’s debt and refunded to you.


Innocent spouse versus injured spouse. A distinction with a difference. You need to know the difference between the two to obtain the proper relief from your tax problem. If you think you qualify for injured spouse and want help filling out the form, we are glad to help. Our contact information is below.

Contact Us

I am Maine’s IRS Problem Solver. My firm helps Maine taxpayers in trouble. If you or someone you know in Southern Maine wants more information on how to resolve your unpaid taxes, please feel free to contact me directly at 207-502-7181 or by filing out my contact form. A Maine tax attorney can help you consider your options.

James D. Wade, Esq.
Law Office of James D. Wade
57 Portland Road, Unit 3
Kennebunk, ME 04043