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5 Tax Filing Tips for the Divorced

July 8, 2020

Going through a divorce isn’t poor. Don’t let a tax filing mishap make it even worse.

There’s a lot to deal with during a divorce. Add to the list more complicated paperwork during tax filing time. The following tips from Kathy Pickering, executive director of The Tax Institute at HandR Block, will help make sure you’re on top of things for tax day.

1. Select the Right Tax Filing Status

Your marital status on Dec. 31 of the year you are filing tax returns for determines your filing status.

This means taxpayers who are not divorced on that date must go on to use one of the filing statuses for married couples, which are married filing jointly and married filing separately. In some cases, married taxpayers may be able to use the head of household filing status even without being divorced if you have lived apart from your spouse for more than half of the year and provided more than half of the maintenance for your household, which includes son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, or eligible foster child.

Being divorced could qualify you to file as head of household if you also meet these two conditions: You paid more than half the cost of keeping up your home and you had a qualifying dependent living in your home more than half of the year. Divorced taxpayers who do not qualify to use the head of the household status will generally file as single.

2. Change Your Name

Depending on where you are now in the divorce process, your name and/or address could’ve changed.

After a name change, remember to request a new Social Security card with your new name. Your name on your tax return must match what the Social Security Administration has on file. If it doesn’t, it might take much more time to process your tax return and also postpone the issuance of a tax refund. Additionally file Form 8822 using the IRS to modify your address of record.

3. Manage Alimony and Child Support Correctly

In previous years should you receive jealousy you had been needed to maintain it as taxable income, as long as you paid it you had been permitted to maintain it like an above-the-line tax deduction? Notice that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 altered this, making alimony no more allowable or allowable.

Also notice that child care isn’t tax-deductible for the payer, and child support isn’t considered income for your receiver and therefore shouldn’t be reported on income tax returns.

4. Pick Who Claims that the Children as Dependents

Children can’t be claimed as dependents on equally divorced parents’ tax returns. Some divorced parents alternate years when they claim the children on their taxes, but in most cases, the custodial parent (the parent the child spends more nights with) will claim the children as their dependents.

However, with the proper written consent from the custodial parent, the noncustodial parent can claim children as their dependents. They must give you a completed Form 8332 releasing your child’s exemption to you. You’ll attach that form to your tax return.

5. Seek Protection If You Suspect Your Spouse Incorrectly Reported Their Income

Divorce, separation and remarriage can often prompt people to review their tax history and sometimes seek relief. For example, if one spouse owes back taxes or has other past-due obligations (e.g., child support) for which the IRS can hold back some or all of a joint tax refund, the other spouse can request injured spouse relief. If it’s granted, the injured spouse may be able to obtain their portion of a tax refund, while their spouse’s portion would offset the past-due debts.

Married taxpayers who suspect a past joint tax return may have understated income and tax without their knowledge may seek relief from joint tax liability by requesting innocent spouse relief. This relief is available in these three categories, each with its own set of qualifications: