Amounts paid under divorce or separate maintenance decrees or written separation agreements entered into between you and your spouse or former spouse are considered alimony for federal tax purposes if:
- You and your spouse or former spouse do not file a joint return with each other
- You pay in cash (including checks or money orders)
- The payment is received by (or on behalf of) your spouse or former spouse
- The divorce or separate maintenance decree or written separation agreement does not say the payment is not alimony
- If legally separated under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance, you and your former spouse are not members of the same household when you make the payment
- You have no liability to make the payment (in cash or property) after the death of your spouse or former spouse, and
- Your payment is not treated as child support or a property settlement
Not all payments under a divorce or separation instrument are alimony. Alimony does not include:
- Child support
- Noncash property settlements
- Payments that are your spouse's part of community property income
- Payments to keep up the payer's property, or
- Use of the payer's property
- Voluntary payments
You may deduct from income the amount of alimony or separate maintenance you paid, and you must include in income the amount of alimony or separate maintenance you received.
Child support is never deductible. If your decree of divorce or separate maintenance provides for alimony and child support, and you pay less than the total required, the payments apply first to child support. Any remaining amount is considered alimony.
Noncash property settlements, whether in a lump sum or installments, do not qualify as alimony. Voluntary payments (that is, payments not required by a divorce decree or separation instrument) do not qualify as alimony.
You do not have to itemize deductions to deduct your alimony payments. You must claim the deduction on Form 1040 (PDF), U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. You cannot use Form 1040A (PDF), U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, Form 1040EZ (PDF), Income Tax Return for Single and Joint Filers With No Dependents, or Form 1040NR (PDF), U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return. You must provide the Social Security number of the spouse or former spouse receiving the payments. If you do not, you may have to pay a $50 penalty and your deduction may be disallowed.
If you are the spouse or former spouse who is receiving the alimony, you must report the full amount as income on your Form 1040 (PDF) or on Schedule NEC in Form 1040NR (PDF). You cannot use Form 1040A (PDF), Form 1040EZ (PDF), or Form 1040NR-EZ (PDF), U.S. Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresident Aliens With No Dependents. If you do not give your Social Security number to your spouse or former spouse who is making the alimony payments, you may have to pay a $50 penalty.
For more information on the general requirements for alimony and for information on other decrees and agreements under which amounts paid and received may be treated as alimony, see Publication 504, Divorced or Separated Individuals. For more information on decrees and agreements executed before 1985, see the 2004 version of Publication 504 (PDF).
Page Last Reviewed or Updated: February 19, 2015