When spouses file a joint tax return, each spouse is responsible for the entire tax liability. This is referred to as joint and several liability. Joint and several liability survives the divorce of the spouses even if the corresponding divorce decree states that one (1) of the spouses is solely responsible for any particular tax liability.
Injured Spouse Relief is available to a requesting spouse whose share of a tax refund, from a jointly filed tax return, was or is expected to be intercepted and applied to the other spouse’s past due Federal taxes, State income taxes, State unemployment compensation debts, child or spousal support payments, or non-tax Federal debt such as a student loan. Injured Spouse Relief can provide for the requesting spouse to receive his or her share of such tax refund.
To qualify for Injured Spouse Relief, you must not be legally obligated to pay the past due amount and you must meet any of the following conditions: (i) you made and reported tax payments such as Federal income tax withholding or Federal estimated tax payments; (ii) you earned income such as wages, salaries, or self-employment earnings and claimed the earned income credit or the additional child tax credit; or (iii) you claimed a refundable tax credit such as the health coverage tax credit or the refundable credit for prior year minimum tax.
Internal Revenue Service Publication 971