Topic No. 452 Alimony and Separate Maintenance

Tax Treatment of Alimony and Separate Maintenance

Amounts paid to a spouse or a former spouse under a divorce or separation instrument (including a divorce decree, a separate maintenance decree, or a written separation agreement) may be alimony or separate maintenance payments for federal tax purposes. Certain alimony or separate maintenance payments are deductible by the payer spouse, and the recipient spouse must include it in income (taxable alimony or separate maintenance).

Note: You can't deduct alimony or separate maintenance payments made under a divorce or separation agreement (1) executed after 2018, or (2) executed before 2019 but later modified if the modification expressly states the repeal of the deduction for alimony payments applies to the modification. Alimony and separate maintenance payments you receive under such an agreement are not included in your gross income.

Alimony or Separate Maintenance – In General

A payment is alimony or separate maintenance only if all the following requirements are met:

  • The spouses don't file a joint return with each other;
  • The payment is in cash (including checks or money orders);
  • The payment is to or for a spouse or a former spouse made under a divorce or separation instrument;
  • The spouses aren't members of the same household when the payment is made (This requirement applies only if the spouses are legally separated under a decree of divorce or of separate maintenance.);
  • There's no liability to make the payment (in cash or property) after the death of the recipient spouse; and
  • The payment isn't treated as child support or a property settlement.

Payments Not Alimony or Separate Maintenance

Not all payments under a divorce or separation instrument are alimony or separate maintenance. Alimony or separate maintenance doesn’t include:

  • Child support,
  • Noncash property settlements, whether in a lump-sum or installments,
  • Payments that are your spouse's part of community property income,
  • Payments to keep up the payer's property,
  • Use of the payer's property, or
  • Voluntary payments (that is, payments not required by a divorce or separation instrument).

Child support is never deductible and isn't considered income. Additionally, if a divorce or separation instrument provides for alimony and child support, and the payer spouse pays less than the total required, the payments apply to child support first. Only the remaining amount is considered alimony.

Reporting Taxable Alimony or Separate Maintenance

If you paid amounts that are considered taxable alimony or separate maintenance, you may deduct from income the amount of alimony or separate maintenance you paid whether or not you itemize your deductions. Deduct alimony or separate maintenance payments on Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return (PDF) or Form 1040-SR, U.S. Tax Return for Seniors (PDF) (attach Schedule 1 (Form 1040 or 1040-SR), Additional Income and Adjustments to Income (PDF)). You must enter the social security number (SSN) or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) of the spouse or former spouse receiving the payments or your deduction may be disallowed and you may have to pay a $50 penalty.

If you received amounts that are considered taxable alimony or separate maintenance, you must include the amount of alimony or separate maintenance you received as income. Report alimony received on Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR (attach Schedule 1 (Form 1040 or 1040-SR) (PDF)) or on Schedule NEC, Form 1040-NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return (PDF). You must provide your SSN or ITIN to the spouse or former spouse making the payments, otherwise you may have to pay a $50 penalty.

Additional Information

For more detailed information on the requirements for alimony and separate maintenance and instances in which you may need to recapture an amount that was reported or deducted (recapture of 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).