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State of California Franchise Tax Board

Innocent Joint Filer Tax Liability Relief

When you file a California joint tax return, you and your spouse/registered domestic partner (RDP) both assume responsibility for paying the taxes, applicable penalties, and interest. However, if you meet certain legal requirements, you may qualify for relief from payment of all or part of the tax liability.

We will work with you to determine if you qualify for relief.

Types of Relief

Traditional innocent joint filer relief

You may qualify for relief from assessed additional tax, penalties, and interest if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • You filed a valid joint tax return.
  • At the time you signed the joint tax return, you were unaware of the items that resulted in an audit assessment of additional tax.
  • Your spouse/RDP created the liability.
  • Taking into account all of the facts and circumstances, it would be unfair to hold you liable for the liability.
  • You submitted your completed FTB 705, Innocent Joint Filer application, to us no later than 2 years after the date we began involuntary collection activities against you.

Relief by separate allocation of liability

Under this type of relief, we determine which spouse/RDP is liable for the assessed additional tax, penalties, and interest. We assign the liabilities to the responsible spouse/RDP. To qualify, we require that you filed a joint tax return and meet all of the following conditions:

  • You were divorced, legally separated, terminated a registered domestic partnership, or lived apart for 12 months prior to making your request for relief.
  • The additional tax we assessed is attributable in part or in full to your spouse/RDP.
  • You had no knowledge of the items that created the tax liability when you signed the joint tax return.
  • You submitted your completed FTB 705, Innocent Joint Filer application, to us no later than 2 years after the date we began involuntary collection actions against you.

Equitable relief

If you filed a joint tax return and do not qualify for traditional innocent joint filer relief or relief by separate allocation of liability, you may be entitled to equitable relief under certain conditions. Equitable relief applies to self-assessed unpaid taxes reported on you joint tax return or any assessed additional taxes. Some of the factors we consider include:

  • Your current marital/RDP status.
  • You can provide documented proof that you experienced abuse from your spouse/RDP during your marriage or registered domestic partnership.
  • You can prove that when you signed the tax return, you expected to satisfy the tax liability.
  • In the case of tax resulting from an audit, you were unaware of the tax liability understatement.
  • Your current financial situation and your ability to pay the tax liability.
  • Whether a divorce decree, termination of a registered domestic partnership, or the legally binding agreement identifies 1 taxpayer as legally liable to pay the tax liability.
  • Whether you received a significant benefit from the unpaid income tax liability or tax deficiency.
  • Your compliance with income tax laws in later tax years.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) relief

If the IRS granted you innocent spouse relief, we may grant you relief from self-assessed unpaid state tax liabilities or an assessed deficiency of additional taxes, if you meet the following conditions:

  • You filed a valid joint tax return.
  • You submitted a completed FTB 705, Innocent Joint Filer application.
  • All facts and circumstances are the same for the IRS and us.
  • You provide a copy of the IRS Final Determination Letter.
  • You were granted relief by the IRS for the same tax years.
  • You provide a copy of the divorce decree/marital settlement agreement or termination of registered domestic partnership.

Relief from community income

If you failed to include community income on your separate tax return, you may be entitled to relief if you meet all the following conditions:

  • You did not file a joint tax return.
  • You did not include an item of community income on your separate tax return for that taxable year.
  • You did not know of, and had no reason to know of, that community income item.
  • You can prove that the unreported income was attributable to your spouse/RDP.

Relief by court order

Alternatively, you may qualify for revision of joint and several tax liability by a court order if you obtained a divorce decree/termination of registered domestic partnership from your spouse/RDP and the court issues an order relieving you of some of all of the unpaid tax due from a joint tax liability. To qualify for court-ordered revision, the following items must be included in the court order:

  • A specific reference to the amount of California state income tax liabilities for each tax year for which relief is granted.
  • The amount of the total unpaid tax liability each taxpayer is liable for paying.

If you seek court-ordered relief and your joint gross income exceeds $150,000 or you owe more than $7500 for the tax years for which you seek relief, you must send us a letter to request a Tax Revision Clearance Certificate (TRCC) prior to seeking court-ordered relief. In your letter, include your name, address, telephone number, and social security number. You must provide the TRCC to the court. After the court issues its order, provide us with a copy.

Please note that the court is limited in the relief it can provide:

  • The court cannot relieve you of your responsibility to pay taxes on your earned income.
  • Generally, the court cannot provide relief for taxes already paid.

While you obtain a divorce/registered domestic partnership termination, call an Innocent Joint Filer representative at 916.845.7072. We offer case evaluation and advice on the information that you need to include in your divorce decree, marital settlement agreement, or registered domestic partnership termination. In some cases, we may require you to file a TRCC with the court. We can only relieve you of the liability created from the income that you did not earn, manage, or control.

Additional Information

Relief based on financial hardship

A financial hardship alone does not entitle you to Innocent Joint Filer relief. However, we may consider your inability to make payments as a factor for granting you equitable relief.

Collection action delayed during review of request for relief

Generally, upon receipt of your written request for relief, we suspend all collection activity against you. However, interest continues to accrue while we review your request.

Refunds

If we grant your relief request, under certain circumstances, we may refund certain payments.

Spouse/RDP notification

The law requires that we notify your spouse, ex-spouse, RDP, or ex-RDP to allow the non-requesting spouse/RDP an opportunity to provide documentation to grant relief. We also notify them of our action on your request and provide the non-requesting spouse/RDP with an opportunity to appeal our decision. Upon your request, we keep your information (such as a new name and address) confidential.

Signature validation

If you did not sign the joint tax return, or if we determine the signature on the tax return is not yours, we consider the joint tax return invalid, which makes you ineligible for Innocent Joint Filer relief. We may hold you liable for your separate tax liability based on your separate income plus your share of any community income.

How to request relief

Provide the following documents:

  • FTB 705, Innocent Joint Filer application.
  • A statement explaining why you believe you qualify for relief and any documentation that supports your position.
    • Include your name, social security number, and the tax years for which you request relief.
  • Complete copies of your state and federal tax returns for the tax years for which you request relief.
  • If you requested relief from the IRS, attach a copy of any IRS correspondence responding to your relief request.
  • A complete copy of your divorce decree and marital settlement agreement or termination of registered domestic partnership.

We may request additional documentation based on your specific circumstances.

Mail your request to:

STATE OF CALIFORNIA
INNOCENT JOINT FILER PROGRAM MS A-452
FRANCHISE TAX BOARD
PO BOX 2966
RANCHO CORDOVA CA 95741-2966

Forms

  • FTB 705, Request for Innocent Joint Filer Relief
  • FTB 714, Innocent Joint Filer Relief

IRS Innocent Spouse information

Refer to IRS Tax Information for Innocent Spouses.

Contact information

Call us at 916.845.7072 to discuss your specific case and circumstances.

We also offer assistance in Spanish by phone or mail.

 

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