Does the IRS count support payments as taxable income?

With regard to taxes, the rules  for child support and spousal support differ. The IRS does not count child support as taxable income, nor is child support tax deductible for the payer.

On the other hand, for tax purposes, the amount of spousal support may be deducted from the payer’s income, and the recipient of spousal support must claim as income the amount received. Matters can become more complicated when a divorce agreement specifies alimony and child support payments.

Usually, the parent who has custody of the child most of the time is the parent who receives child support. In cases in which that parent also receives alimony, the law requires that the child support be prioritized.

In other words, a payer who owes child support and spousal support cannot claim a spousal support deduction if the child support obligation was not fully met. Likewise, a recipient of child support and alimony is not required to report the amount received if it does not add up to the amount of child support ordered.

Essentially, alimony is the remainder of any support paid after the child support obligation is met. That is, unless the payer makes voluntary payments in addition to the agreed-upon amount of alimony. The IRS does not count voluntary payments as spousal support. The payer may claim a deduction only for the amount of spousal support that was agreed upon or ordered.

Divorce, child custody, property division and taxes can be difficult to address for spouses whose marriage is ending. If you have questions about any of these matters, then don’t hesitate to speak with a family lawyer with experience in both accounting and property division.