A recent Tax Court decision was reported dealing with Innocent Spouse Relief. J. Frank Best, Tax Controversy CPA/U. S. Tax Court Litigator in Raleigh and Wilmington, NC & North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach, SC works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for our clients.
No Innocent Spouse Relief for Widow Who Failed to Report Insurance Proceeds on Form 8857
The Tax Court held that a widow was not entitled to innocent spouse relief from tax liabilities that arose over several years in which she and her husband filed joint returns but did not pay taxes owed. The court cited the fact that, after her husband’s death, the widow invested the proceeds of life insurance policies purchased by her husband without her knowledge in several savings accounts opened in her parents’ names and did not report the proceeds to the IRS when she requested relief. Hale v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo. 2018-93.
Spouses filing joint tax returns are generally jointly and severally liable for any taxes owed. However, Code Sec. 6015(f) allows a spouse to be relived from liability if it would be inequitable to hold the spouse liable.
Rev. Proc. 2013-34 lists seven factors to consider if certain threshold conditions do not apply. The factors are: (1) whether the couple is still married, (2) whether economic hardship would arise if relief is not granted, (3) whether the requesting spouse had reason to know that the taxes would not be paid, (4) whether either spouse had a legal obligation to pay the taxes, (5) whether the requesting spouse significantly benefitted from the unpaid taxes, (6) whether the requesting spouse made a good faith effort to comply with the income tax laws in subsequent years, and (7) whether the requesting spouse was in poor health at the time the returns were filed.
The Tax Court held that it would not be inequitable to deny relief to Mrs. Hale. The court explained that a simple toting up of the seven factors would support granting relief, because Mrs. Hale’s lack of knowledge and mental health weighed in her favor and strictly applied, no factor weighed against relief. However, the court noted that the factors are nonexclusive, the degree of importance of each factor varies depending on the facts and circumstances, and that the court was not bound by the IRS’s published guidelines.