Divorce Tax Tips: The Ins and Outs of Filing Your First Tax Return

The many changes in your life after divorce include new rules imposed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about your claims, deductions, exemptions and income. Divorce lawyer Bryan L. Salamone, Esq. gives you tips on accurately filing your first tax return as a single person.

Your new single status

The IRS classifies you as a single person even if your divorce was not finalized until the last day of the taxable year — in most cases, a decree dated December 31st means you were single the previous year, whereas a date of January 1st means you were married. You remain liable for any unpaid taxes, penalties and interest on joint tax returns you filed while married. Your separation does not release you from the liability, even if your divorce decree specifically holds your former spouse liable. However, you can apply to the IRS for relief if your spouse is responsible for mistakes on your past tax returns.

Social Security after name change

The name on your tax return should match that of your Social Security Administration (SSA) records. A disparity between the surnames can cause problems with processing your return and delay receipt of your refund. To change your surname back to your former name, apply to your local SSA for a new card and show a copy of your final decree as proof.

How to claim alimony on your tax return

You can deduct alimony you pay to your former spouse, whereas your former spouse must report the amount as income. However, if you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who pays spousal support to a foreign national, you may be required to withhold income tax at a 30 percent rate.

Child support and taxes

Your child support payments are not tax deductible, and conversely, the child support your spouse receives is not considered income. If you pay your former spouse less than what you owe in financial support, any payments you make apply first to your child support obligations and then to your alimony responsibilities.

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