What is an Injured Spouse and Who Qualifies?

Date: August 8, 2022

The Department of the Treasury has the ability to apply taxpayer refunds to their previous past-
due government debts in what is known as an “offset”. When married taxpayers choose to file
a joint return, their joint refund may also be offset toward previous debts.
However, if a taxpayer’s portion of a joint refund was offset to pay toward their spouse’s
separate, pre-existing debt, then that taxpayer can be considered an injured spouse. If the
taxpayer does not owe anything and is not legally responsible for this debt, then they may still
be entitled to their share of the offset refund.
To get back their share of the joint refund, taxpayers who qualify as injured spouses should file
form 8379. This must be filed within three years of the due date for the original return or within
two years of the date you paid the tax that was later offset, whichever is later. The form can
also be filed with a joint return if the taxpayer knows of their spouse’s preexisting debt and
expects their refund to be offset. Finally, form 8379 must be filed for each tax year in which an
offset did or is expected to occur for a taxpayer to be considered an injured spouse.
If you believe you qualify for injured spouse relief and wish to seek legal assistance, you can
reach out to the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic by calling (812)-339-7668.

Megan Burtis,
Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Law Clerk