Trump, Taxes and Divorce: End of the Alimony Deduction

Trump, Taxes and Divorce: End of the Alimony Deduction

While many of the changes to the GOP Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are geared toward corporations, big businesses and those who own them, a repeal of a deduction for alimony is an example of how the tax law will have consequences beyond the one percent.

In some cases, the new law will be turning over tax policy that has been in place for decades. Given the highly partisan and controversial manner in which this bill was passed, it leaves many wondering if Republican legislators thought through the consequences for those who are likely to be most affected—in most cases women.

Current law has included an alimony payment deduction for 76 years

According to the Act as it is currently written, this deduction will be eliminated, effective 2019. Couples who are in mediation, separated or contemplating Divorce are being counseled to act now if it seems that Divorce is the inevitable outcome. A result of the new law could be a surge in Divorces.

“Now’s not the time to wait,” said one Philadelphia lawyer and former chair of the American Bar Association’s section on family law. “If you’re going to get a Divorce, get it now.”

The deduction substantially reduces the amount of alimony payments

What does the deduction mean for divorcing couples? For those in the highest income-tax bracket, it means that every dollar someone pays to support a former spouse is actually costing him/her a little more than 60 cents. Potential divorcees have all of 2018 to use the alimony deduction as a bargaining chip in their negotiations with estranged spouses.

An increase in acrimonious Divorces that disproportionately target women

Many believe that removing this deduction will make Divorces more acrimonious, that people won’t be willing to pay as much alimony. More couples will end up fighting in court because they won’t be able to agree on alimony terms. Since it is women who tend to earn less and are most often the recipients of alimony, many believe this tax change could disproportionately hurt women. One family law attorney believes that the repeal reduces the bargaining power of vulnerable spouses, mostly women, in achieving financial stability after a Divorce.

Tax break: An overview

  1. A burden on the IRS. This alimony deduction has been criticized for being a burden on the IRS. There is a one-one relationship between what ex-spouses are paying and receiving. In 2010, there was a $2.3B gap in the reporting. If they don’t match, the IRS may be auditing two people who may already be feuding—a very difficult situation.
  2. Alimony has been deductible since 1942 because lawmakers believed it was unfair to tax people on the alimony they paid when the money was not available for them to spend.
  3. The deduction is significant for divorcing couples. Let’s say that John earns $250,000, which puts him in the 24% tax bracket. He agrees to pay $4,000 per month in alimony, but it really costs him about $3,000, with the deduction. Without the break, John may agree to pay only what would have been his after-tax amount, about $3,000.
  4. Unfair to give divorcees a special break. House Republicans justified the repeal by suggesting that it was unfair to offer a special break to divorcees. The repeal prevents divorced couples from reducing income tax through a specific form of payments unavailable to married couples.
  5. The tax change is projected to raise $6.9B over the next decade; it is one of the ways Republicans are trying to compensate for the huge deficit created by the tax cuts.

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