Tax Treatment of Alimony
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 for federal tax purposes. Alimony is deductible by the payer spouse, and the recipient spouse must include it in income.
A payment is alimony 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 divorce or separation instrument doesn't designate the payment as not alimony;
- 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.
Not all payments under a divorce or separation instrument are alimony. Alimony 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.
If you paid amounts that are considered alimony, you may deduct from income the amount of alimony you paid whether or not you itemize your deductions. Alimony payments are only deductible on Form 1040 (PDF), U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. 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 alimony, you must include the amount of alimony you received as income. You may only report alimony received on Form 1040, or on Schedule NEC, Form 1040NR (PDF), U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return. 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.
For more detailed information on the requirements for alimony 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.
Page Last Reviewed or Updated: December 30, 2016