Are Alimony Payments Tax Deductible?

Updated on February 5, 2024

At a Glance

  • Alimony payments’ tax deductibility depends on the execution date of the divorce or separation agreement.
  • Pre-2019 agreements follow old rules, allowing deductions, while post-2018 agreements don’t.
  • Visit the IRS website for details. Seek professional advice and consult IRS guidelines to handle alimony payments correctly on your tax return.

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a common financial obligation that arises from divorce or separation agreements. Whether these payments are tax-deductible depends largely on when the divorce or separation agreement was executed or modified. The IRS has specific rules for the treatment of alimony payments, especially following the changes implemented by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017. This article will clarify the tax deductibility of alimony payments under the current tax law.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a financial obligation that arises from divorce or separation agreements. It refers to the payments made by one spouse to the other to provide financial support. The purpose of alimony is to help the lower-earning or non-earning spouse maintain a similar standard of living after the divorce or separation. The amount and duration of alimony payments are typically determined by the court based on various factors, including the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of each spouse, and the financial needs of the recipient spouse.

Changes to Alimony Deduction: The TCJA Impact

Prior to the TCJA, alimony payments that met certain requirements were deductible by the payor, and recipients were required to include the payments in their taxable income. However, the TCJA altered this long-standing rule. For any divorce or separation agreement executed (or modified) after December 31, 2018, the tax treatment of alimony has changed significantly:

  • For Agreements Executed After 2018: Alimony payments are not deductible for the payer, and they are not considered taxable income for the recipient.
  • For Agreements Executed Before 2019: The old rules still apply, and payers can continue to deduct alimony payments. Recipients must still report these payments as taxable income.

For more detailed information, visit the IRS’s Alimony Tax page.

What Qualifies as Alimony?

The IRS sets forth specific definitions for alimony, which includes payments that are:

  • Made under a divorce or separation agreement
  • Paid in cash (including checks or money orders)
  • Received by a former spouse

Furthermore, alimony does not include child support payments or non-cash property settlements.

How to Deduct Alimony Payments for Older Agreements

If your divorce or separation agreement was executed before January 1, 2019, and you are eligible to deduct alimony payments, you must:

  • Itemize the deduction on Form 1040 or 1040-SR.
  • Provide the Social Security Number (SSN) of the recipient on your tax return. Failing to do this could result in a penalty.

Modifications Affecting Deductibility

It’s important to recognize that not all modifications will change the tax treatment of alimony. Only modifications that expressly state that the TCJA’s treatment of alimony payments applies will alter the deductibility of those payments.

Final Thoughts

The deductibility of alimony payments on federal taxes now hinges on when your divorce or separation agreement was made. For agreements under the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) rules, there’s no need to report these payments in your tax return. For pre-2019 agreements, adhere to previous tax laws and report correctly. Always consult the latest IRS guidelines and consider a tax professional for guidance, especially for pre-TCJA situations. For more support on the financial aspects of divorce, including tax implications, visit USA.gov’s Divorce section.

Learn More About Tax Deductions

FAQ: Alimony Payments and Tax Deductions

1. What Are Alimony Payments?

Alimony payments are payments made to a spouse or former spouse under a divorce or separation agreement. They are intended to provide financial support to the spouse who was either non-working or the lower earner in the relationship. These payments must be legally obligated and documented in the divorce or separation agreement.

2. Are Alimony Payments Tax Deductible?

The tax deductibility of alimony payments depends on when the divorce or separation agreement was executed. For agreements executed or modified after December 31, 2018, alimony payments are no longer tax-deductible for the payer and are not considered taxable income for the recipient, according to U.S. law. However, for agreements executed before this date, the old rules apply, where the payer can deduct alimony payments, and the recipient must report them as taxable income.

3. What Documentation is Needed to Deduct Alimony Payments?

For alimony payments that are tax-deductible (under agreements executed before December 31, 2018), taxpayers must have a copy of the divorce or separation agreement that specifies the amount of alimony and the schedule of payments. They should also keep records of all payments made, including dates, amounts, and methods of payment.

4. Can Child Support Payments be Included as Alimony for Tax Purposes?

No, child support payments are distinct from alimony and are neither deductible for the payer nor taxable to the recipient. It is important to clearly distinguish between alimony and child support in any divorce or separation agreement, as the tax implications are different.

5. How Do Changes in Alimony Agreements Affect Tax Deductions?

If an alimony agreement is modified after December 31, 2018, and the modification expressly states that the alimony payments are not deductible for the payer or taxable for the recipient, the new tax rules apply. This means the payments under the modified agreement would no longer be tax-deductible for the payer or taxable for the recipient.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.