This chapter discusses the rules that apply if you pay or receive alimony. It covers the following topics.
- What payments are alimony.
- What payments are not alimony, such as child support.
- How to deduct alimony you paid.
- How to report alimony you received as income.
- Whether you must recapture the tax benefits of alimony. Recapture means adding back in your income all or part of a deduction you took in a prior year.
Alimony is a payment to or for a spouse or former spouse under a divorce or separation instrument. It does not include voluntary payments that are not made under a divorce or separation instrument.
Alimony is deductible by the payer and must be included in the spouse's or former spouse's income. Although this chapter is generally written for the payer of the alimony, the recipient can use the information to determine whether an amount received is alimony.
To be alimony, a payment must meet certain requirements. Different requirements generally apply to payments under instruments executed after 1984 and to payments under instruments executed before 1985. This chapter discusses the rules for payments under instruments executed after 1984. If you need the rules for payments under pre-1985 instruments, get and keep a copy of the 2004 version of Publication 504. That was the last year the information on pre-1985 instruments was included in Publication 504.
Use Table 18-1 in this chapter as a guide to determine whether certain payments are considered alimony. taxmap/pub17/p17-094.htm#en_us_publink100033741
The following definitions apply throughout this chapter.taxmap/pub17/p17-094.htm#en_us_publink100033742
Unless otherwise stated, the term "spouse" includes former spouse. taxmap/pub17/p17-094.htm#en_us_publink100033743
The term "divorce or separation instrument" means:
- A decree of divorce or separate maintenance or a written instrument incident to that decree,
- A written separation agreement, or
- A decree or any type of court order requiring a spouse to make payments for the support or maintenance of the other spouse. This includes a temporary decree, an interlocutory (not final) decree, and a decree of alimony pendente lite (while awaiting action on the final decree or agreement).
You may want to see:
Publication 504 Divorced or Separated Individualstaxmap/pub17/p17-094.htm#en_us_publink100033744
The following rules apply to alimony regardless of when the divorce or separation instrument was executed.taxmap/pub17/p17-094.htm#en_us_publink100033745
Not all payments under a divorce or separation instrument are alimony. Alimony does not include:
- Child support,
- Noncash property settlements,
- Payments that are your spouse's part of community income as explained under Community Property in Publication 504,
- Payments to keep up the payer's property, or
- Use of the payer's property.
Cash payments, checks, or money orders to a third party on behalf of your spouse under the terms of your divorce or separation instrument can be alimony, if they otherwise qualify. These include payments for your spouse's medical expenses, housing costs (rent, utilities, etc.), taxes, tuition, etc. The payments are treated as received by your spouse and then paid to the third party. taxmap/pub17/p17-094.htm#en_us_publink100033747
Alimony includes premiums you must pay under your divorce or separation instrument for insurance on your life to the extent your spouse owns the policy. taxmap/pub17/p17-094.htm#en_us_publink100033748
If your divorce or separation instrument states that you must pay expenses for a home owned by you and your spouse or former spouse, some of your payments may be alimony.taxmap/pub17/p17-094.htm#en_us_publink100033749
If you must pay all the mortgage payments (principal and interest) on a jointly-owned home, and they otherwise qualify as alimony, you can deduct one-half of the total payments as alimony. If you itemize deductions and the home is a qualified home, you can claim half of the interest in figuring your deductible interest. Your spouse must report one-half of the payments as alimony received. If your spouse itemizes deductions and the home is a qualified home, he or she can claim one-half of the interest on the mortgage in figuring deductible interest. taxmap/pub17/p17-094.htm#en_us_publink100033750
If you must pay all the real estate taxes or insurance on a home held as tenants in common, you can deduct one-half of these payments as alimony. Your spouse must report one-half of these payments as alimony received. If you and your spouse itemize deductions, you can each claim one-half of the real estate taxes and none of the home insurance.
If your home is held as tenants by the entirety or joint tenants, none of your payments for taxes or insurance are alimony. But if you itemize deductions, you can claim all of the real estate taxes and none of the home insurance. taxmap/pub17/p17-094.htm#en_us_publink100033751
If you made other third-party payments, see Publication 504 to see whether any part of the payments qualifies as alimony.