How can I obtain a tax deduction for a support payment?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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For divorce or separation agreements executed before 2019, in order for a support payment (other than any child support payment) to be eligible for an income tax deduction by the payer spouse, the following requirements must be met:

(1) The payment must be made in cash (including checks and money orders payable on demand, but excluding transfers of services or property.)

(2) The payment must be made under either

(a) a divorce or separation instrument (a court order or decree of divorce or separation or a written instrument incident to such a decree or a decree which requires a spouse to make payments for the support or maintenance of the other spouse), or

(b) a written separation agreement between a husband and wife who are living apart requiring periodic payments because of the marital or family relationship (whether or not the agreement is a legally enforceable instrument)

(3) The spouses do not file a joint income tax return

(4) The written instrument or agreement does not provide for other tax treatment, and

(5) The payer has no liability to continue to make payment after the death of the other spouse.

Any child support included as part of an alimony, family support, separate maintenance or spousal support payment is not eligible for a deduction by the payer and is not taxable income to the supported spouse according to Federal income tax rules if the divorce and separation agreements were finalized prior to December 31, 2018.

However, for divorce or separation agreements reached in 2019, the laws have been changed because of the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017. Alimony payments by the payer are not a tax deduction and alimony received is not taxable income to its recipient.


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