Divorce can be a sensitive topic and a difficult period of time for all the parties involved. Whether you live in a common law or community property state, the process of filing taxes once the divorce has been finalized can be both emotional and complicated. Deciding how assets are split, the cost basis of these assets, new filing status and even which former spouse will claim children as dependents are all important considerations that go into the tax filing process after divorce. Here are 5 things to keep in mind when filing taxes after a divorce.
#1 Determine Which Taxpayer Will Claim Children as a Dependent
After 2009 a tax filer with shared custodial rights of a child or children must cede their claim for a tax exemption to the controlling ex-spouse by filing Form 8332. The significance of this filing should not be taken lightly. A custodial parent who is able to claim a child as a dependent is permitted a deduction of $3,900 on their tax return, which reduces their taxable income. This applies to all children living at home at least 6 months old up to age 19, or 24 if the child is a full-time college student.
#2 Determine Your New Tax Filing Status
A divorce will change a formerly married filing separately or joint filing status to single, regardless of when the divorce was finalized within the tax year. Also consider that if you want to file as head of household, you will have had to have lived apart from your ex-spouse for at least six weeks and contribute more than half of the money to support the household. Being able to file as head of household can result in a bigger tax savings, so review your situation–or have and experienced tax professional review your situation–carefully.
#3 Understand the Impact Alimony Will Have Upon Divorce
Alimony may be necessary as a source of income for a divorcing spouse that has either stopped working, is returning to the workforce or is making significantly less than the other spouse. Be careful, however, as alimony payments made from one spouse to another are considered taxable income to the recipient spouse. Depending on your income level, if you are the one receiving alimony from your former spouse, the additional income could affect your tax bracket potentially pushing you into a higher bracket and a bigger tax liability.
#4 Understand the Impact of Dividing Assets Upon Divorce
There are some tradeoffs that come when assets are divided, particularly a home. Gains that may have been subject to exemption as a result of a sale, for example, would be halved if the asset is sold under a divorce decree. The spouse who receives the home as part of the divorce settlement (if a sale is not ordered) will have the ability to claim the mortgage interest deduction. Discuss with a tax professional carefully how the receipt or sale of certain assets will show up on your tax return and what tax benefits or disadvantages you will receive or give up.
#5 Understand How Divorce Will Affect Your Retirement Plan
Many times divorce results in the splitting up of retirement assets held by a working spouse, such as those held in an IRA or 401(k). Be sure to secure what is known as a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) in order to secure treatment of these assets as your personal retirement assets and not those of your former spouse. Failure to do so could result in disastrous tax treatment once those assets pass from one spouse to another, such as in the case of death.
It’s important to take all the details of a divorce into account when filing your taxes. If you have questions about what you are entitled to and how your tax status is changing after a divorce, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced R&G Brenner tax professional.