Was Your Refund Offset Due To Child Support? What You Need To Know About Injured Spouse Filing

When you're accustomed to receiving a return every year, tax time is often welcomed with anxious anticipation. As electronic filing and direct deposit have increased in popularity, you may even have come to expect your return to be deposited within a couple of weeks of filing. This can intensify the confusion and shock when you receive the notice that your refund has been offset due to your new spouse's past-due child support. Luckily, you still have options to recover your portion of the return. Here's a look at what you need to know about Injured Spouse forms and the filing process.

What is an Injured Spouse?

The Internal Revenue Service uses the term "injured spouse" to refer to the spouse of someone who has a tax refund offset for past due child support, unpaid student loans or outstanding tax debts, among other things. If you aren't responsible for the debt, you are considered to be the injured spouse, because your refund is being offset for his or her debt.

How Can You Get Your Refund?

Even if the Internal Revenue Service is claiming your spouse's portion of the return, you are still entitled to yours. By filing form 8379, the Injured Spouse form, you can request that the income and tax credits be allocated appropriately between the two of you before the tax refund offset occurs. This separates the earned income and tax credits, essentially creating separate tax filings without having to sacrifice the Earned Income credit, if you are eligible for it. When you are married and file separately, you aren't eligible to claim the Earned Income credit.

When Can You File the Injured Spouse Form?

The first year that you file the form, you will probably file it after your tax return. This is the most common approach, because many tax filers aren't aware of the impending offset in advance. You can submit the Injured Spouse form after you've filed your taxes, but you need to be sure that the social security numbers on the form are in the same order as they appear on your return. Once you are aware of the offset, if it is going to continue through subsequent years, you can file the Injured Spouse form with your tax return every eligible year thereafter.

How Do You Fill Out the Injured Spouse?

When you fill out the Injured Spouse form, you'll have to provide all of the total figures from your return for income, adjustments, deductions, exemptions, credits, tax withholding and payments. Then, you'll have to list how much of each of these things should be allocated to each spouse. For example, you'll need to list how much each of you earned individually. If you have children together, you'll also have to decide which of you is claiming the deductions for them. Make sure that you review the form instructions closely every year, as some things may change or there may be new requirements with each tax filing season.

How Long Does It Take to Get the Refund?

The processing time for an Injured Spouse return is longer than it is for traditional returns, because the Injured Spouse allocation must be completed first. The Internal Revenue Service guidelines suggest that it can take up to three and a half months to process the Injured Spouse form. For the fastest turnaround, file the form with your return and file it electronically every year.

Sometimes, it's easiest to work with a tax filing professional, like those at Jack Landis And Company, to help you with forms like this. Accuracy is of the utmost importance. If you have any questions about it at all, talk with a preparer who can guide you.

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Do you prepare your own taxes each year? Have you received letters months after you have filed your taxes and spent your return telling you that you have made an error and that you owe the IRS a check to cover the discrepancy? This is something that has happened to me four times in the past eight years. Because of small errors, I have had to come up with money that I had to pay back and it made things more difficult than you might think. Since the last time, I have been paying to have my taxes prepared professionally and it has actually helped a lot. Find out what a difference a professional tax preparer could make on your taxes this year here on my blog.