A requirement for all three types of innocent spouse relief is that the taxpayer requesting relief did not know or did not have reason to know that the deductions or items of income were erroneous on their jointly-filed tax return. There are situations that arise in which a taxpayer did indeed know or had suspicions that items on their return were erroneous but was forced to sign the tax return by their spouse. A taxpayer in this position would not qualify for innocent spouse, but they are not without recourse.
Joint and several liability arises when spouses file a return together selecting the filing status of married filing jointly. If one spouse is forced to sign the return or does so under duress, it is not considered a joint return and therefore, no joint liability exists.
In order to void a jointly-filed return due to duress, the taxpayer that is requesting to be relieved of joint liability must show that (1) they were unable to overcome the demands of the other spouse to sign the joint return and (2) they would not have signed the return but-for the pressure from the other spouse.
Abuse can be used to show that a spouse signed the jointly-filed tax return under duress. The taxpayer seeking relief must show that the abuse occurred at the time of the signing and the abuse amounted to duress. Therefore, if there was a history of domestic abuse in the marriage, but at the time of the signing of the return, there was no abuse occurring, a showing of previous abuse cannot be used to prove duress. A history of domestic abuse may be persuasive in proving duress to the IRS if the abuse was occurring at the time of the signing.