If you went through a Georgia divorce in 2011, this year's tax returns will likely look a lot different than they did in the past.
In an earlier post, we discussed some of the basics of post-divorce tax returns; namely, that alimony payments are deductible and child support payments are not. However, if you're going to be claiming an alimony deduction this year, there's more that you need to know.
What Counts as Alimony?
Federal tax law defines alimony as payments made "to or for a spouse or former spouse under a divorce or separation agreement." Under this definition, voluntary support payments don't count as alimony. You can only deduct payments that were mandated by an official agreement, such as a divorce decree or a written separation agreement.
It is not required that the agreement be permanent. Payments made under temporary, interlocutory or "pendente lite" agreements can all qualify.
In addition, federal law requires alimony payments to end when the receiving party dies. If your support agreement requires you to make payments to your ex-spouse's heirs after he or she dies, you probably cannot claim an alimony deduction.
Finally, payments that could be characterized as "child support" cannot be deducted. Keep good records of both your alimony and child support payments to avoid any confusion. Also, know that if you are behind in your child support, the IRS will generally characterize all payments to your ex-spouse as child support, and not alimony, until you catch up on your obligations.
How to Claim an Alimony Tax Deduction
Alimony payments can be claimed as an "above the line" deduction, meaning that you can claim the deduction even if you don't itemize. On form 1040, the alimony deduction is entered on line 31.
You cannot claim the deduction if you and your spouse are filing a joint tax return. Further, unless you meet some limited exceptions, you cannot claim an alimony deduction if you and your spouse or ex-spouse are living in the same home.
If you have any questions about filing taxes after a divorce, talk to your Georgia divorce lawyer or consult with a tax professional.