The sad reality is more than 50% of marriages end in divorce. The median duration of a marriage in the United States is 11 years. Divorce is a reality and there are some important things you need to know from a financial and tax perspective.
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When couples divorce, financial negotiations often involve alimony. The tax rules regarding alimony were dramatically changed by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017, but existing agreements have been grandfathered. In addition, the old rules remain in effect for divorce and separation agreements executed during 2018. Next year, the rules will change, and the roles will be reversed.
Under divorce or separation agreements executed in 2018, and for many years in the past, alimony payments have been tax deductible. Moreover, these deductions reduce adjusted gross income, so they may have benefits elsewhere on a tax return. While the spouse or former spouse paying the alimony gets a tax deduction, the recipient reports alimony as taxable income.
Shifting into reverse
Beginning with agreements executed in 2019, there will be no tax deduction for alimony. As an offset, alimony recipients will not include the payments in income.
The Journal of Accountancy recently published an interesting article addressing the issue of 'gray divorce.' Gray divorce refers to couples divorcing later in life and while a 30-something divorcing couple may be squabbling over custody, visitation, and credit card bills, those couples divorcing over age 50 are facing battles over retirement funds, the long-term residence, and a diverse portfolio of assets.
Oftentimes, divorcing couples believe that because the court suggests a particular division of assets, that it is what they must do. Couples may not realize that the court will decide in the absence of either party striking an agreement. When the court makes a decision for the couple, this may not be in the best interest for either.
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Meeting with your CPA, whether as a couple or individually, will allow you to take a closer look at the reality of the tax and financial implications depending on how the assets are ultimately divided. Also, your CPA will run scenarios, especially if one spouse was the higher earner or if one spouse did not work, which will greatly affect the financial future of both.