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My spouse owes back taxes. If my spouse and I file a joint return, will the IRS take my refund to pay my spouse's tax debt?

Yes. The IRS will apply your refund to the tax debt. This is true unless you file an injured spouse form.

You might be an injured spouse if:

  • You file a joint return.
  • The IRS will apply all or part of your refund to your spouse's legally enforceable past-due debt. This includes:
    • Federal tax
    • State tax
    • Child or spousal support
    • Federal nontax debt like student loans

To make an injured spouse claim, file Form 8379. You'll file Form 8379 for each year you qualify. If you haven't already e-filed, you can include this form with your return. If you've already filed, you can mail it to the IRS. The form will delay your refund. However, it can help you to receive part of your refund.

Your spouse can call the IRS to see if he or she has a potential garnishment. To learn more, call the IRS at 800-829-1040.

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