Can I claim my child support as a deduction?

child support as tax deductionAs the time advances toward Tax Day, one of the first questions divorced parents ask is, “Can I claim my child support as a deduction?” Afterall, after spending considerable amounts for the care of children, there has to be some way to get a tax break. Unfortunately, that break won’t come through a deduction of child support. Why?

The IRS does not consider child support to be tax deductible. Child support also is not taxable income and does not have a line item under itemized expenses. However, alimony or spousal support is considered taxable income and expenses related to the collection of those payments are tax deductible.

For the person paying child support and alimony, the IRS does allow tax deduction to be taken for those whose divorce decree wraps those two payments up into “family support” or for those who remit the child support as alimony. The recipient, however, must report this as taxable income. As a word of caution, if alimony is scheduled to end within six months of the child’s 18th or 21st birth date, the IRS may suspect the alimony is disguised child support.

All is not lost. While child support is not taxable income or deductible, being able to claim a child as a dependant does impact tax liability. Only one parent can take the dependency exemption and file as “head of household”. A divorce decree or IRS determination will establish who can take this exemption and get the subsequent benefits.

There are other expenses related to the care of children that do also allow for a tax break. Custodial parents may be able to take child care credits. For parents who have a dependent under the age of 17 and incur work-related expenses, the tax credit can apply to a portion of these costs. Noncustodial parents have the benefit of deducting certain child care and medical fees for minor children. Although the Tuition and Fees deduction has been eliminated for older children, parents of undergraduate students can take the American Opportunity Credit for up to $2,500 for each eligible child.

There are negative tax implications if a person does not pay their child support. If a person fails to pay child support, they may lose their tax refund. The Bureau of Fiscal Services can withhold a portion or all of a tax refund in an effort to collect delinquent child support payments. This is done exclusively under the Treasury Offset Program and if this is to occur, the BFS will provide details on the original refund amount, the amount withheld and information about the agency collecting the payment. If a couple filed jointly but were impacted by BFS action to recover unpaid child support, they may file Form 8379 to request a portion of the withheld payment back from the IRS.

Whereas child support is not able to be claimed as a deduction, there are ways to get tax credits or benefits to offset the costs of caring for dependent children. Whether through a family support agreement, dependent exemptions, or claiming deductions and tax credits on child care, education or medical expenses, divorced parents can benefit from available provisions to tax relief.

To speak with our attorneys, who specialize in both tax and divorce, please call our Modesto office at (209) 492-9335.

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