Marriage status, dependents and audits, oh my! Divorce and taxes

Tax season is never fun, but a recent divorce can compound an already difficult task. What's even more frightening is the fact that a divorce can impact taxes up to three years after it is finalized. In some cases, this deadline for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to question taxes can even be extended to six years.

Some examples of how a divorce can impact taxes include:

  • Marital status. One of the very first pieces of information requested by the IRS on tax forms is the filer's marital status. Couples that finalized their divorces on or after January 1st of 2014 cannot qualify for single status in the 2013 tax year. Those who were divorced in 2013 can check the single box. Making matters even more confusing is a third option: head of household. Qualifying for this status is a bit more complicated. Some requirements include having lived apart for a certain period of time while paying over half the cost of maintaining a main resident and being able to claim a child as a dependent.
  • Dependents. Claiming children as dependents is something that should ideally be discussed and agreed upon during the divorce proceeding. In most cases, the parent designated the custodial parent receives this tax benefit.
  • Alimony versus child support. One is tax deductible, the other is not. As long as the person paying alimony is not living with the ex-spouse and the payments are not considered part of a property settlement, alimony can generally be deducted. Payments made for the support of a child do not impact taxes, child support payments are never deductible
  • Audits. A recent article in Forbes addressed the fact that divorces can lead to audits. This is particularly true if a spouse attempted to hide assets or underreported income during the property division determination. At this time, a financial audit is generally done by the court. If any discrepancies are found, the judge is ethically obligated to report to the IRS. This report could lead to an audit.

Many of these issues can be avoided by taking proactive steps during the property division portion of the divorce. Taking the time to review all assets and distribute them accordingly can help avoid red flags with the IRS and reduce risk of a divorce leading to a tax audit.

Legal counsel can help

Navigating through the various issues that are tied to a divorce can be intimidating. An experienced family lawyer can help guide you through these issues and better ensure you receive a thorough analysis of marital property and can actively represent your interests during the proceeding.