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How to lock in an alimony tax deduction

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The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act could influence how people in Michigan structure their divorce settlements after Dec. 31, 2018, especially in regard to alimony payments. Starting in 2019, someone paying alimony will no longer have the ability to write off the expense on a personal federal income tax return. The recipient of alimony after that point will not have to report the income as taxable.

Until then, people who complete or modify a divorce in 2018 will be creating terms that operate under the previous tax rules, and those tax laws will continue to apply in the coming years. A payor could qualify for a tax deduction on alimony payments as long as they meet certain requirements.

Tax law specifies that the payor and recipient of alimony must file separate tax returns and not live in the same household. The payment must be made as part of a legal divorce or separation decree and be paid in cash or check. The legal documentation must clearly state that the money is alimony and not part of the division of property or child support. Finally, the payor must be under no obligation to continue payments after the death of the recipient.

In some cases, divorcing couples negotiate the terms of their split privately, often with support from financial and legal advisers. When a person cannot come to terms with a former partner, then a contested divorce ensues, and the person might want legal representation in the resulting divorce litigation that will end up with the decisions being made by the judge.

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