Welcome to 2019 and a delayed provision of the tax reform, also known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). For divorce agreements entered into after December 31, 2018, or pre-existing agreements that are modified after that date to expressly provide that alimony received is not included in the recipient’s income, alimony will no longer be deductible by the payer and won’t be income to the recipient.
This is in stark contrast to the treatment of alimony payments under decrees entered into and finalized before the end of 2018, for which alimony will continue to be deductible by the payer and income to the recipient.
Having the alimony treated one way for one segment of the population and the exact opposite for another group of individuals seems unfair and may ultimately make its way into the court system. But in the meantime, parties to a divorce action need to be aware of the change and compensate for it in their divorce negotiations, for a decree entered into after 2018.
If you are recently divorced or are contemplating divorce you will have to deal with or plan for significant tax issues such as asset division, alimony, and tax-return filing status. If you have children, additional issues include child support; claiming of the children as dependents; the child, child care, and education tax credits; and perhaps even the earned-income tax credit (EITC).
Alimony is the term used for payments to a separated spouse or ex-spouse as part of a divorce or separation agreement. Since 1985, to be alimony for tax purposes meets several criteria listed in this week’s article.
Divorce Agreements Completed before the End of 2018 – For divorce agreements finalized before the end of 2018, the recipient (payee) of alimony must include it in his or her income for tax purposes. The payer is allowed to deduct the payments above the line (without itemizing deductions), technically referred to as an adjustment to gross income. The spouse receiving the alimony can treat it as earned income for purposes of qualifying to make an IRA contribution, thus allowing the recipient spouse to contribute to an IRA even if he or she has no other income from working.
Divorce Agreements Completed after 2018 – Under the Act, for divorce agreements entered into after 2018, the alimony is not deductible by the payer and is not taxable income for the recipient. Since the recipient isn’t reporting alimony income, it cannot be treated as earned income for purposes of the recipient making an IRA contribution.
Taxpayers are frequently blindsided when their filing status changes because of a life event such as marriage, divorce, separation or the death of a spouse. These occasions can be stressful or ecstatic times, and the last thing most people will be thinking about are the tax ramifications. But the ramifications are real and the following are some of the major tax complications for each situation.
If you are in the midst of a divorce, if one is on the horizon, or if you are involved in a dispute with an ex-spouse over the terms of your divorce, you need to be aware that divorce agreements establish your rights related to each other under state law but do not bind those who are not parties to the divorce, including the IRS, to the terms of the divorce.
As a result, the IRS will follow federal law as it applies to a tax issue and ignore what the divorce decree specifies. Where there is a dispute between ex-spouses over the application of federal tax law and the divorce decree, federal tax law will prevail, and if one spouse feels they are paying more taxes than they are supposed to, their only recourse is to go back to state court and seek a monetary award.