My spouse lied on our tax return and now we owe back taxes. Is there anything that I can do?

Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) LSC Funded


Yes. You may be eligible for relief from the IRS. The most common type of relief when you have a tax problem because your spouse lied on a tax return is Innocent Spouse Relief.


What is Innocent Spouse Relief?

Innocent Spouse Relief is when the IRS removes your responsibility for all or part of your joint tax debt that you owe with your former spouse.
When you sign a joint income tax return, both you and your spouse agree to be responsible for any tax debt related to the tax return. This means that you could be responsible for the entire tax debt that tax year, even if you did not earn any money that year. If you qualify, innocent spouse relief can help relieve you of that responsibility.


What is Injured Spouse Relief?

Injured spouse relief is different than innocent spouse relief. You should apply for injured spouse relief if you are married and file jointly with your spouse and your tax refund is seized to pay your spouse's separate debts, like your spouse's back child support. If you file IRS Form 8379 with your tax return, you may receive a portion of your refund.


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Legal Help

  • The State Bar Lawyer Referral Service may provide you with contact information for attorneys who provide the type of assistance you are seeking, for a fee. You can contact the State Bar Lawyer Referral Service at (406) 449-6577 or
  • Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) provides free civil, non-criminal legal help to eligible clients. Learn more about how to apply for free legal help in Montana
  • If you qualify for help from MLSA, you may be able to get free legal advice from a volunteer attorney by email using Ask Karla


The clinic listed herein is partially funded through matching grants provided by the Internal Revenue Service pursuant to the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998. The partial funding by the IRS does not imply that the clinics have a preferential relationship with the IRS. The decision of whether to use these clinics is your own and their use will not affect your rights before the IRS.

Last Review and Update: Feb 28, 2019

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