The Tax Benefits of Alimony

Tax time is filled with W-2’s, receipts, and calculators, and with taxpayers working feverishly to report income, pay required taxes, and claim their maximum deductions by the deadline. This time of the year is improved if there are tax breaks or a large refund on the way. For those who went through a divorce in the previous tax year, there are some things that can be added as deductions and beneficial to both spouses. Let’s dig into alimony and see how this affects divorced ones at tax time.

For the payee

Although divorce carries fees for court filings, attorneys or other counsel, those typically are not tax deductible. However, under some circumstances, a spouse can deduct fees associated with the collection of alimony fees. The person seeking alimony payments–either wives or husbands–can deduct fees that were incurred during the process of trying to obtain payments from their spouse. These fees will be filed on tax Form 1040 Schedule A as a “Miscellaneous Deduction”.

Alimony payments are considered taxable “earned income” for the payee. This comes with some restrictions. For example, the itemized deductions has to be at least two percent of the adjusted gross income for the spouse that is seeking alimony payments from their ex. If they do not itemize deductions or the deductions do not meet the required percentage, the spouse is unable to take claim it.

The kinds of fees that are able to be deducted include those for tax advice, the costs for legal services to receive spousal support, and fees for securing interests in a retirement plan. Also, since some counseling is not considered deductible, if an attorney provides these non-deductible services, these must be billed separately from other services that are deductible. Additionally, if alimony payments are in the first year or two after the divorce, these may be considered a non-deductible property settlement.

For the payer

The person paying alimony may claim it as an “above-the-line” tax deduction if they meet IRS eligibility. Some prefer this over paying property settlements because of its tax benefits. The payments must be made under a legal separation agreement or divorce decree, not voluntary or made by persons living in the same household. The payments are not considered child support, the payments must be made by cash, check or money order and these payments cease after the payers death. These payments should be reported on Line31a of the payers Form 1040 along with their spouse’s social security number so as to not have this deduction cancelled and penalized.

Some have paid child support payments as alimony in order to save on taxes. While this is allowable by the IRS, if it resembles child support, it may not be entirely deductible. Especially if alimony is scheduled to end by within six months of the children’s 18th or 21st birthday will payments be suspicious and disguised child support. The IRS also becomes suspicious if alimony payments are below the threshold of excess alimony within the first two to three years of the divorce.

Alimony payments have benefits both to the one receiving spousal support and the one paying it. To get tax deductible help with alimony and tax planning, contact our offices.

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