Injured Spouse Relief

Sad Couple Sitting On Couch After Having Quarrel


So you filed your tax return expecting a nice refund and then nothing comes back. You go to the IRS “Where’s my Refund?” website and find a note that says your refund was held because of a prior tax debt—but you don’t have one. Turns out your beloved spouse owed back taxes from before you were married. Is there anything you can do?

Yes, there is. You may be able to file for Injured Spouse Relief.

How do you know if you qualify as an injured spouse? First, you must have made and reported tax payments. That means you either had income tax withheld from wages or you made estimated tax payments, or you claimed a refundable tax credit like the Earned Income Tax credit. Second, you must not be legally obligated to pay the past-due amount. For example, you weren’t married to your spouse when he or she incurred the debt.

Are there any kinds of debt besides federal income tax that can cause my refund to be taken? Your refund can be taken for state income tax, child or spousal support, or federal student loans.

Note: if you live in a community property state, there are special rules. If you’re in one of those states, you’ll need to see IRS Pub 55.

If you filed a joint return and you are not responsible for your spouse’s debt, you may request your portion of the refund by filing the Injured Spouse Allocation form, Form 8379.

If you haven’t filed yet, you can submit form 8379 along with your tax return. If you’ve already filed and received a federal offset notification, you can submit a form 8379 by itself. You can e-file the 8379 when it’s submitted with a return. If you’re sending in a paper tax return (okay, you know you should be e-filing whenever possible) then you need to write “INJURED SPOUSE” at the top left corner of your 1040.

If you’re filing the 8379 by itself; make sure that you list both spouses’ social security numbers in the same order as they appeared on your income tax return. I know this sounds kind of silly but it’s really important to put the social security numbers in the right order. You might be thinking that the spouse that’s injured should have his/her name on the top, but put your names in the same order as on the tax return.

How Come the Injured Spouse Allocation Form doesn’t tell you  how much you’ll get back? Good question, but it doesn’t. The IRS will determine how much of your refund you will receive. Part of the issue is that allocation for couples from the community property states will be different from couples who aren’t in community property states.

How long will it take me to get my refund after I file an injured spouse claim? It’s going to be slower than a regular refund. If you e-file a form 8379 along with your federal return, it will take about 11 weeks to process. If you mail your return in your refund will take around 14 weeks. If your tax return was already file and you’re sending in an Injured Spouse Allocation by itself, expect the IRS to take about 8 weeks to process it.

Am I better off just filing separately? Sometimes, yes. But if you qualify for any of the tax credits that aren’t allowed to couples who file separately then the Injured Spouse Allocation is your best choice despite the delay to your refund.


Here are some links that might help:

EIC questions of any kind:–Use-the-EITC-Assistant-to-Find-Out-if-You-Should-Claim-it.

How to find free tax preparers:

How to find your local IRS office:

557 thoughts on “Injured Spouse Relief

  1. Hi Jan,

    I filed the Injured Spouse, but the refund was forwarded to a collecting agency anyway. My husband does not work, so the money they took was all mine. What can I do?

  2. Hi Le Chau,
    First, did you file the injured spouse form with your tax return or after? Because if you filed the injured spouse after you’ll have to wait for them to sort through whether you get that money back or not.
    But if they took your refund and sent it to a collection agency despite having filed the injured spouse form–then you’ll want to check–why? Is there an outstanding debt for you as well?
    If not, are you sure all of the refund belongs to you? If the money should all be yours, then perhaps you just need to give the IRS a little more time to process it all. Injured spouse claims are taking up to 16 weeks these days.
    If it’s been over 16 weeks and you’re positive there is no debt for you and the refund is totally yours, then you’ll need to contact the IRS and talk with them. Maybe they can explain why the money went to a collection agency. And if they don’t have a good reason, then maybe you’ll need to contact the Taxpayer Advocate to get involved.

  3. Hi Dawn,
    I have no experience with the IRS going back 5 years and taking your money back from you.

    READERS? Anybody out there have some experience with this? Please make a post. Thanks.

    Personally, I’d spend the money on my kid. That’s what it’s for. I mean, what’s the point of them releasing your child support if they’re going to take it away 5 years later? But that’s my opinion, I’m not coming at this from experience on this one.

  4. My husband and I filed injured spouse this year and we received our letter, this past Friday, stating how much we would be receiving back. How long does it usually take to get the refund check after receiving your letter in the mail?

  5. Hi Paula,
    I’m so behind on answering this question, I’m assuming that you’ve got your money already. If not, I’d say it’s time to call the IRS to follow up.

  6. Hi Dana,
    Innocent spouse and injured spouse are different things. Here is information about innocent spouse relief if that’s what you’re really looking for:

    With injured spouse-that’s where the IRS takes your refund because your spouse has an old debt like child support or a student loan, you file that as soon as you learn there is a problem. Usually within the same year, but you can file as long as the tax period remains open (three years.)

    With innocent spouse – that’s usually a situation where you had no knowledge of what you spouse had done with the taxes, although the filing period is usually two years, there are exceptions and you can go back much further depending upon the situation.

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