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  • Writer's pictureRachael King

Divorce Tax Implications: Essential Tips

A man's hands pushing apart two paper cut outs of people and small houses sitting on a table.

Navigating through a divorce can be one of life's most challenging events, particularly when it comes to untangling the web of financial and legal matters. Among these, understanding the implications of divorce on your taxes is important. Every tax season I work with numerous clients navigating this issue.  Here are the key points we talk about to ensure they emerge with their financial health intact: 

Filing Status Matters

Your marital status as of December 31st is crucial in determining your filing status. If you're officially divorced by year-end, you'll file as single. However, if the divorce is not final, consider the implications of filing jointly or separately, as each has its benefits and drawbacks.

Understanding Alimony and Child Support

Post-2018, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changed the game for alimony, which is no longer deductible by the payer nor taxable to the recipient. This is a significant shift from previous rules. Child support, on the other hand, remains nondeductible and is not considered taxable income.

The Division of Assets

Divorce often involves the division of assets, each with its tax implications. Particularly with retirement accounts.  You must ensure a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is in place to avoid unnecessary taxes or penalties. Remember, the transfer of assets as part of divorce is generally not a taxable event, but the future sale of these assets could be.

Claiming Dependents and Tax Credits

Who gets to claim the children as dependents can have a big impact on your taxes. This decision affects eligibility for various tax credits, including the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit. If you qualify, filing as Head of Household can also offer more favorable tax rates and a higher standard deduction.

Legal Fees and Expenses

Unfortunately, most legal fees related to divorce are not deductible. However, if your attorney's fees relate specifically to generating taxable income, such as alimony, those costs may be deductible. This is a nuanced area where specific advice is crucial.

Updating Personal Information

A change in marital status means it's time to update your personal information with the IRS, especially if you're changing your name or address. Ensuring that the IRS has your correct details helps avoid missed communications or delays in processing your tax return.


Be Aware of Tax Penalties and Inaccuracies  

If you're filing jointly in the last year of your marriage, remember that both parties are jointly liable for any taxes, penalties, or interest owed. If you're concerned about potential inaccuracies on joint returns, consider the IRS Innocent Spouse Relief as a possible safeguard.

Planning for the Future

Post-divorce, your financial situation will change. Review and adjust your tax withholding to reflect your new income level to avoid surprises come tax season. Additionally, consulting with a CPA can provide tailored advice, helping you navigate these changes smoothly.

Divorce Tax Implications: Conclusion

Divorce complicates taxes, adding layers of considerations to an already complex process. However, with careful planning and professional advice, you can manage these challenges effectively. Remember, each divorce is unique, and the above points serve as a general guide.

It’s a smart move for both parties to seek professional advice during these times. 

If you have questions or are in the middle of a divorce this tax season, take time to sit down with a CPA and learn more about how you can manage the tax and financial repercussions and set yourself up for a better future.

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