Refund Offsets and Injured Spouse Forms
You prepared your tax return. It showed you were due a refund. The return was filed and accepted with the IRS. The refund never came. What does this have to do with an injured spouse form?
After you’ve double checked to make sure your bank information and/or mailing address was perfectly correct on your return, you may want to determine whether your refund was taken as part of an offset.
That’s right. The Department of Treasury’s Bureau of Fiscal Service issues refunds. BFS also operates the Treasury Offset Program (TOP). Through this program, your refund may be reduced or wholly used to repay a debt, such as:
- Past-due child support
- Federal agency non-tax debts (i.e., defaulted student loans, overpaid social security, etc.)
- State income tax obligations
- Certain unemployment compensation debts owed to a state
BFS will take as much of your refund as is needed to pay off the debt.
This can be very surprising and disappointing for some taxpayers. Especially for married taxpayers who didn’t know that their spouse owed the debt. There is an option for those people though.
Injured Spouse Allocation
While “injured spouse” may conjure up images of physical violence, the IRS uses it in a monetary sense. If you meet these criteria, you may be able to file Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation:
- You filed a joint return
- Your refund was taken to pay an offset
- You are not responsible for the debt it was taken to pay
If you meet those items, you may be entitled to a portion of the refund you were supposed to receive. There are two ways to go about it.
1. You know about the debt.
If you know your partner owes a debt like the ones outlined above, you can file Form 8379 with your tax return, right from the beginning. If you do so, write “Injured Spouse” on the top left corner of the first page of the joint return. It may take up to 14 weeks for the IRS to process your return and issue a refund.
2. You were surprised by the offset.
After an offset happens, you can file Form 8379 by itself. It must show both spouses’ social security numbers in the same order they appeared on your joint tax return. You will also need to include all of your Forms W-2 or 1099 that show income tax withholdings or your refund may be delayed. The “injured spouse” must sign the form. Send the form to the Service Center where you filed your original return. It can take up to 8 weeks for the IRS to process the form.