Tax News
Chief Counsel Corner

 

Jozel Brunett, FTB Chief Counsel.

Court-Ordered Relief from Joint and Several Liability

California taxpayers filing a joint return are jointly and severally liable to pay any income tax reported on the return and for any deficiency determined later. When taxpayers file a joint return, the law allows us to collect any tax due from either person who signed the joint return, without regard to which person earned the income, or failed to report the income that resulted in the
tax liability. 

During a divorce proceeding, taxpayers may enter into a written agreement providing for one of the parties to be responsible for payment of the joint tax liabilities. Often, the parties mistakenly believe that we must follow their agreement and revise their joint tax liabilities. This is not the case if the agreement is not in compliance with the specific statutory requirements set out in Section 19006(b) for court-ordered relief.

Section 19006(b) provides that a joint liability may be revised by the court during a divorce proceeding provided the court order:

  1. Does not relieve a spouse of a tax liability on income earned by or subject to the exclusive management and control of that spouse.
  2. Separately states the income tax liabilities for the tax years for which the revision is being granted.
  3. Does not revise a tax liability that has been paid prior to the effective date of
    the order.

If a judge grants court-ordered relief from a joint California tax liability to one of the parties during a divorce proceeding or in a subsequent hearing, and the court's order meets all the requirements of Section 19006(b), we will follow the court's order and revise the joint tax liabilities. Section 19006(b) also applies to court orders issued during proceedings to dissolve or terminate a registered domestic partnership.

If the gross income reported on the joint return exceeds $150,000 or the tax liability for which relief is sought exceeds $7,500, a tax revision clearance certificate (TRCC) must be obtained from us and filed with the court. A TRCC informs the court of the total amount of tax, penalties, and interest that are due on the joint account as of the date we issue the TRCC. It also provides the amount of the tax, penalties, and interest that are attributable to the taxpayer who is requesting relief of the joint tax year liability.  

When we issue a TRCC to a taxpayer, we advise the taxpayer that the court's order or divorce decree must include the California tax liability, the years for which relief is sought, and the amount or percentage of the total tax liability each taxpayer is responsible for paying based on the information provided on the TRCC. In order to provide current information to the court, we request that the taxpayer file the TRCC with the court within 90 days of the date it was issued or it will expire. If the court determines that there will be a delay in issuing its order, we will issue a revised TRCC to the taxpayer.

Upon being provided with a copy of the court order that includes the TRCC, we will follow the court's order and revise the tax liability as long as the statutory requirements of section 19006(b) are satisfied. 

To request that we issue a TRCC to be provided to a divorce court, taxpayers may call our Innocent Spouse Unit at 916.845.7072. Taxpayers may also write to us to request a TRCC at:

STATE OF CALIFORNIA
INNOCENT SPOUSE UNIT MS A452
FRANCHISE TAX BOARD
PO BOX 2966
RANCHO CORDOVA, CA 95741-2966

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Jozel Brunett
Chief Counsel

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