Tax considerations during, after divorce

By Andrew Zashin

Though the April 15 tax filing deadline is now behind us, we know that it will come again. With that in mind, and while the matter is still top of mind, let’s discuss important tax issues that may impact your filings next year. I have previously discussed child-related tax benefits available to divorcing parents and the importance of allocating which parent claims the children in a final divorce decree and the potential tax win-win of contributing to a donor advised fund. There are also a variety of other tax-related items that individuals should consider both during and after a divorce.

Many individuals ask about the tax impact of child support, spousal support and property transferred pursuant to a divorce. Payments of child support are non-taxable transfers: the payments are not deductible to the payor (the person paying support) and are not taxable to the payee (the person receiving support). Payments of spousal support under orders issued after 2019 are similarly nontaxable transfers. Likewise, there is usually no taxable impact on property transferred between spouses, or former spouses, pursuant to a divorce.

During the divorce process, couples must decide how they are going to file their tax returns. If a couple is divorced by Dec. 31 of any given year, they must file separate income tax returns as single or head of household filers. If a couple remains married on Dec. 31, however, they must file under married filing jointly or married filing separately status. While I encourage everyone going through a divorce to consult with their accountant or tax professional to identify the tax-filing status that is best for them, the “rule of thumb” is for divorcing couples to file in the manner that maximizes total refund or minimizes total liability. The IRS also recommends that individuals going through a divorce file new Form W-4s with their employer to update their withholding amounts to reflect their anticipated filing status and number of dependents that they intend to claim.

After a divorce, the Internal Revenue Service may contact individuals to collect taxes due from returns that parties jointly filed during the marriage. If one spouse did not know that the other spouse improperly reported income, claimed improper deductions, or otherwise misrepresented tax information without their knowledge or consent, however, they may qualify for innocent spouse relief and be shielded from liability regarding all or some of the amount due. To qualify for innocent spouse relief, the requesting spouse must meet certain criteria and must demonstrate that the: (1) tax understatement was due to the other spouse; and, (2) requesting spouse did not know, nor did they have reason to know, of the understatement. Additionally, the requesting spouse must show that it would be unfair to hold them responsible for the liability.

There are three types of innocent spouse relief available: traditional relief, which provides full relief from additional taxes owed; separation of liability, which allocates additional taxes owed between the spouses; and, equitable relief, which may apply when neither of the foregoing apply. Innocent spouse relief can be requested at any time after a joint return has been filed, however, there are specific time limits for each type of relief. To support an innocent spouse relief claim, the requesting spouse may need to provide documentation and evidence to demonstrate their lack of knowledge or involvement in the tax issue. This can include financial records, communications between spouses, and any other relevant information.

These are just a few of the tax-related items that individuals should consider when going through, or after, a divorce. As always, I encourage individuals to consult with an accountant or a tax professional to discuss the above and other tax considerations that may apply to their specific situation.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

Who claims kids? Tax considerations for divorcing parents

By Andrew Zashin*

Among the many issues that divorcing couples with children must face is one often worth thousands of dollars: who will claim the kids on their tax returns? As tax season begins on Jan. 23, let’s look at some of the child-related tax benefits that should be considered during a divorce.

Child Tax Credit

According to the IRS, the Child Tax Credit helps families with qualifying children get a tax break. For the 2022 tax year, individual filers who earned less than $200,000 can receive a $2,000 credit toward their outstanding federal tax liability per qualifying child age 16 or younger. For individuals who earned more than $200,000, the Child Tax Credit amount is reduced by $50 for each additional $1,000 of income until it is eliminated. Those whose Child Tax Credit amount exceeds their 2022 tax liability may be eligible for a tax refund of up to $1,500.

In order to qualify for the Child Tax Credit, a parent must have a qualifying child live with them for at least half of the year and must cover at least 50% of that child’s expenses. A parent can allow the other parent to claim the Child Tax Credit for a particular child, however, by executing IRS Form 8332.

Earned Income Tax Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a fully refundable tax credit for those with low-to-moderate earned income. Similar to the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit is a credit, not a deduction, which means that it directly reduces the amount that you owe to the federal government. The amount of Earned Income Tax Credit a parent is eligible for depends on income, filing status and the number of qualifying children you have. No Earned Income Tax Credit is available for a single filer earning more than $53,057 per year. Unlike the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit can only be claimed by the parent who the qualifying child lived with for more than half of the year.

Child, Dependent Care Tax Credit

For working parents with children who are disabled or under the age of 13, the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit is available to offset the cost of providing care for these children. The amount of the credit is a percentage of the amount of work-related expenses paid to a care provider based on the parent’s adjusted gross income. The total expenses that a parent can use to calculate the credit may not exceed $3,000 for one qualifying child or $6,000 for two or more qualifying children. Similar to the Earned Income Tax Credit , the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit can only be claimed by the parent who the qualifying child lived with for more than half of the year.

Head of Household Status

An unmarried parent who paid the majority of their home upkeep costs in 2022 and who had a qualifying child live with them for more than half of the year may be able to file under head of household status. There are two main advantages to filing as head of household: a higher standard deduction, $19,400 versus the $12,950 available to single filers, and the potential to be taxed at a lower tax rate. A parent may still be eligible to file as head of household even if the other parent can claim the qualifying child for purposes of the Child Tax Credit.

These are just a few of the child-related tax issues that parents should consider when divorcing. I encourage you to consult with your accountant or a tax professional to see which of these, and other, child-related tax benefits you may be able to utilize.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

2023-11-10T13:38:04-05:00January 19th, 2023|Child-Related Tax Benefits, Divorce, Tax Breaks|
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