In tax filing,  the term “injured spouse” does not refer to a physical injury. It is used to describe a spouse who has lost some of their tax refund because the government took it to pay off their spouse’s debt. The injured spouse did not owe the debt but lost their refund because they filed jointly with a spouse who did owe a debt to the government.

What Does Injured Spouse Mean When Filing Taxes?

The government can take some or all of your tax refund to pay certain debts. What type of debts? A tax filer might owe :

  • Past-due state or federal tax
  • Child support
  • Alimony
  • Federal non-tax debt, such as student loans
  • Debt to an unemployment agency for overpayment of benefits

When one member of a couple who is filing jointly does not owe a debt, and the government takes away some or all of a refund from both of them to pay their partner’s debt, the injured spouse on the tax return can file Form 8379 to request the portion of the refund that they are still owed. The IRS makes this form available to ensure you can receive the refund owed to you, so be sure to take advantage of it.

When to File Injured Spouse Claim

How does the injured spouse work on their taxes to get their refund? When should you turn in Form 8379? Some taxpayers don’t realize their spouse owes certain kinds of debt until the first time they file their taxes jointly, which may be in their first year of marriage. They only find out when their tax refund is suddenly diminished or wiped out.

That’s why, in many cases, the injured spouse may simply file Form 8379 after the tax return is filed . However, if the couple knows government debts will be a problem, they can file Form 8379 with their joint tax return or with an amended joint tax return. This form must be filed again each year the issue comes up.

When you send in Form 8379, you’ll need to complete these four different sections in order to have your request considered:

  1. Answer the yes-or-no questions that help the IRS determine if this is truly a case of an injured spouse.
  2. Give the requested information about the joint return you and your spouse filed or are filing—and that documents the refund owed.
  3. Provide information to help the IRS decide what portion of the refund should be released to the injured spouse.
  4. Use the fourth section if you are filing the form separately from your tax return. The injured spouse will need to sign and date here.

Be prepared to wait for your refund after you file, and file as early as possible if you know you need to use Form 8379. That’s because the IRS can take about 14 weeks to process your request—or about 11 weeks if you sent it electronically.

Call TaxHelp MD with Your Tax Needs

It can be shocking when you are owed a tax refund but do not receive it because your spouse owes taxes or other debts. When this happens, the government (and encourages you to use Form 8379 to request your tax refund as the injured spouse. If you need help with this form, with taxes that you owe, or any other tax service, you can call the Tax Doctor. Get the help and answers you need when you schedule an appointment with us.