Form 8379: How to Get Your Tax Refund as an Injured Spouse

If your spouse has a tax debt you’re not responsible for, the IRS you’re still entitled to your share of your joint tax refund. You can use Form 8379 to get it.

This post is provided for general information only. Please confirm the details and circumstances of your unique situation with your tax accountant or other appropriate advisor before taking action.

What is IRS Form 8379, and what does it do?

Form 8379 is called Injured Spouse Allocation or an injured spouse claim. You submit this form when the IRS kept your entire refund on a joint tax return to cover a debt that only your spouse is responsible for. The debt is usually a federal tax debt but can also include things like state income tax, child support, or a delinquent student loan.

When you file Form 8379, the IRS will determine whether you’re eligible to receive your share of the tax refund. If the IRS approves your request, you will get your refund in about 14 weeks.

What does injured spouse mean?

Injured spouse means that you are financially harmed by the IRS holding your portion of the refund. It does not necessarily mean that your spouse did anything wrong toward you.

When can you file Form 8379?

If you haven’t filed your tax return, you can include Form 8379 with your tax return so the IRS doesn’t hold your refund. If you already filed, you can file Form 8379 when the IRS notifies you it is holding your refund or you get a notice like a CP12 Notice.

Should you file Form 8379 with an amended return?

An injured spouse allocation generally doesn’t need an amended return. The allocation does not say you filed your joint tax return incorrectly. Instead, it says the IRS incorrectly held the injured spouse’s share of the refund.

You would generally only file Form 8379 if you already needed to file an amended return that would give you a bigger refund. The purpose would be to keep the IRS from holding that refund.

How does the IRS calculate injured spouse relief?

Your injured spouse allocation is based on your share of the tax liability. The IRS will generally calculate what you each would have owed if you filed separately. If you would have each owed the same, you can expect to get half the refund. If you would have owed more or less, your share of the refund will be greater or larger.

The IRS may also make adjustments based on how much you each paid through withholding or estimated taxes.

What happens to your future federal tax refunds?

Form 8379 is for the specific tax year in question. For example, if you send this tax form with your 2021 income tax return and the IRS approves it, you won’t automatically get an injured spouse allocation if you file a joint return in 2022. You’ll need to submit a new injured spouse allocation form with your 2022 tax return.

Should you keep using married filing jointly status?

As a general rule, changing to married filing separately status won’t help you in the long term.

  • The portion of the refund that the IRS hold is applied to due debts. You still have a due obligation your spouse will have to pay if you get part of your refund back.
  • You may pay more in taxes by changing your filing status.

What is the difference between Injured Spouse Allocation and Innocent Spouse Relief (Form 8857)?

An injured spouse allocation is when the IRS takes your joint tax refund for some issue not related to your joint tax returns. This might include tax issues from before you were married or a year when you filed separately.

Innocent spouse relief is when there is an issue with a joint tax return. For example, if your spouse understated income on a prior joint tax return and you had no way of knowing, you may be eligible for Innocent Spouse Relief to not have to pay the usual back taxes and penalties.

Conclusion

If the IRS is holding your joint refund because of your spouse’s debt, you can use Form 8379 to get your share of the refund. How much you get when you file an injured spouse form depends on your share of the taxes owed as well as any tax payments you made during the year.

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